Ever since being told by a doctor that I was this close to being obese, I have been in the habit of running for three kilometres every morning except (like the good Presbyterian I am), Sundays. Rain or shine I’m out there pounding the pavement. I know that three kilometres is not far when you’re young and fit, but I’ll be fifty seven on my next birthday. Anyway, if you must know, I chose three kilometres because I’m Trinitarian! I’ve shed fourteen kilograms and keep it off by doing fifty sit-ups and thirty push-ups as well as my run. No, six months ago I thought that you’d never catch me doing this every day! But there you go.
As I run I often think of that line from the Chariots of Fire movie, spoken by the Scottish Eric Liddell (who was born in China) that goes something like, “I feel God’s pleasure when I run.” I must admit to sometimes feeling my aches and pains far more than His pleasure! However, there is a joy in perseverance. I like it when I get a rhythm going between my breathing and my footfalls. I like it even better when I am conscious of God’s presence!
What did that champion of the 1924 Olympics, Eric Liddell, mean by feeling God’s pleasure when he runs? I suppose a wee bit of background might help us to understand this. Whether factual or not but in the movie, like any good Christian, Eric Liddell refused to race on Sunday. He had to withdraw from the 100 metres, his speciality event. Instead, he switched to a non-Sabbath event, the 400 metres. He wasn’t expected to do well. At the starting blocks an American slipped a piece of paper into his hand. It had the following a quotation from 1 Samuel 2:30, “Those who honour Me I will honour.” Liddell tore round the track with that wee piece of paper in his hand. He won the race and broke the existing world record!
I can see that Liddell kept at least the first five of the Ten Commandments. 1. He put God first. 2. He didn’t form an idol out of his running. 3. He didn’t take the Lord’s name in vain by ignoring Him just for a Sunday run. 4. He remembered the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. 5. He honoured his heavenly Father! I’m sure he kept the rest of the Commandments too but the bottom line is that his running was all about God and not Eric Liddell. I wish I could be like that! But I find myself running for vanity! I ran to lose weight! I continue to run to keep the pounds off! I run because of my job! I run for all the wrong reasons! “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” Romans 7:24-25. Sorry about that but when you ask yourself why you do a thing and then think about it in relation to God and His Law then you realise what a wretch you really are! “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!” Anyway, back to feeling God’s pleasure when you run.
This morning, after a wet weekend, the sun poked his head out from behind a cloud. I saw this as my cue to get out there and do my morning run. It was windy. As I ran I was thinking about the words of that hymn, “Breathe on me Breath of God.” In the Bible the Hebrew and the Greek use words that are, depending on context, translated into the English as spirit/wind/breath. As I breathed in time with my footfalls I could feel the wind blowing on my face. Then I felt it on my back as it/He pushed me along! In the confines of my mind, now focussed upon God, I thought, “I’m listening, Lord. You’re with me. I feel Your pleasure!” Oh there was an extra spring in my step, more so than when I was a younger man running past the lassies! I was running for God!
It started to rain. My head got wet! Like a good Presbyterian I thought of baptism and His promise, (Point to note here. As I picked it up to look up this verse my Bible just fell open at the correct page! Anyway), “So shall He sprinkle many nations…” Isaiah 52:15a. I used to follow the baptismal “immersionist” line. But then I came to see that what John the Baptiser was doing with water was representative of what Jesus would do with the Spirit. John says, “He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’” John 1:33. The Sprit descends from the Father to the Son. The Father and the Son pour out, like rain, like the sprinkling of Christ’s shed blood, the Spirit upon believers. Thus, Jesus baptises by pouring or sprinkling!
With the breath of God breathing on me, with His wind at my back, with the Spirit upon me, lifting me, anointing me with water, baptising me, urging me on I began to really feel His pleasure. What joy! As I round the bend towards my home I usually raise the pace and sprint to the finish line. As I did so the sign of His Everlasting Covenant appeared in the sky at the end of my street – the rainbow in the rainclouds that were baptising the earth and me!
If you haven’t already, try it! Run! Run for Him! Feel His pleasure!