I was “Strong but Stupid!” (Trying vs Training)

 Two years ago I was riding 25 miles on my bike as fast as I could in my first Olympic Triathlon and I was soon to get one of the most important lessons of my life.

I was still dripping wet from my one mile swim in Lake Mission Viejo. It took me about 40 minutes to finish the swim, which is a very slow time, but I have arthritis in my shoulders and don’t really know how to swim so I was relieved just to get out of the water and be breathing! Still to come was running 6.2 miles to the finish line with jello legs. For me this race would be harder than the 26.2 mile marathons I’ve run.

As I pedaled hard along Santiago Canyon Road I enjoyed the open countryside and the expansive blue sky overhead. But I especially loved the adrenaline rush that comes with cutting through the air at over 20 miles per hour, feeling my leg muscles surging with energy, and passing one biker after another! Passing people — every biker loves that!

But suddenly my chain came off of my sprocket! I couldn’t get it to re-engage the gears. I had to pull over to the side of the road, turn my bike upside down, get my fingers all greasy, and mess with the chain to get it back on. Meanwhile, streams of bikers were passing by me!

Finally, I got back on my bike and pounded on the pedals. Passing people. Passing people. They weren’t much competition because my dog paddling in the lake had put me at the back of the pack. The real competition was my 20-year old son who I knew was much further down the road.

Then my chain came off again! Same routine: pull over to the side of the road, turn my bike upside down, get my fingers even more greasy as I messed with getting the chain back on, and watch dozens of bikers fly by me!

I got back on my bike again, chasing my son. Passing people. Passing people. Passing people. I was passing the same bikers for the third time!!! One of them looked over at me and smiled, “Man! You’re strong, but stupid!”

Trying vs Training

At the finish line my son was waiting for me. Sure enough, he’d been there for twenty minutes! But I was a happy man and a proud father as we got pictures taken with our medals hanging around our necks and celebrated with Kristi and my daughters.

Later I thought about the biker’s teasing remark, “You’re strong, but stupid!” Yeah, I could’ve saved myself a lot of time and frustration by being more careful when changing gears — or getting a bike tune up before the race!

But the real lesson is that in life I have tended to rely too much on my strength of will. I try too hard. When I put pressure on myself to achieve the result I want then I become over stressed, which dampens my spirit and that of those around me. Trying harder doesn’t work. No matter how hard I pedaled on my bike I wasn’t going to go faster in the end if my chain kept falling off!

Rejoice in the Lord

“Rejoice in the Lord always!” (Philippians 4:4) That’s God’s wisdom for us. It doesn’t mean plaster a smile on your face. It means be happy because, “The Lord is near,” as the Apostle of Grace explains in the next verse (Philippians 4:5). Learning how to rejoice in the Lord pulls us out of the ditch — that’s what I’ve been learning to appreciate more in recent years.

I’ve come to appreciate trying vs training. The key to rejoicing in the Lord is to go beyond trying and instead to train with Jesus for joy — to learn from him how to become the kind of person who continually looks up to see that the heavens are open to you and he is coming to help you! It’s true. “[The Lord] makes the clouds his chariot and he rides on the wings of the wind” (Psalm 104:3). Picture this! Learn to let the clouds just above your head always remind you that Christ is near and coming closer! It brings smiles of joy!

Trying vs Training with a Breath Prayer

I wonder what situation in your life you might be stressing out over? What has you pushing yourself or worrying? Many of us struggle with this — especially those of us who are pastors, leaders, teachers, and caregivers. Let’s not be strong but stupid! Instead, don’t just try — train with Jesus. That’s what I’m doing. I’m training to grow in the peace and joy of the Lord.

Trying vs training. It makes a big difference. Intelligent training with Jesus over time is the only way to become a different kind of person on the inside. For instance, I invite you to pray with me one of my favorite Breath Prayers from the Bible: “In Jesus’ name… Not my strain” (inspired by Psalm 20:7).

As you breathe in, put your trust in the Lord: “In Jesus’ name…” As you breathe out, release your pressure, “Not my strain.”

Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart (Colossians 3:15). Feel it settle into your soul…

Thank you Father God. I’m not just on my own here and I don’t need to push to make something happen. So I step back from what I’m doing and look up… Ahhh, yes! The risen Christ is here with me! He’s smiling with joy and his arms of love are open to me! He breathes his Spirit into me. Amen.


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