Most mornings I start my day with a quiet time of reflection in the Bible. I also listen to broadcasted sermons from Truth for Life, a ministry of Bible-centered teaching run by Pastor Alistair Begg. I was listening to a recent sermon that was talking about money and wealth. Part one of the sermon can be found here.
The sermon was about the mistreatment of wealth by Christians, but it made an important point. Wealth, itself, is not bad. The Bible tells us in 1 Timothy 6:10 that “[t]he love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” This means that money is not the problem… love of money is.
For God delights to give his children gifts. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17) “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)
The issue, then, as with so many other things, is with our hearts. Gifts are from God and should lead us to God. The second we turn from God to the gift itself, we have created an idol. We have turned our gaze from the gift-giver to the gift, elevating the temporary and forgetting the indescribable.
Preacher Alistair Begg reminded the listener of this truth in terms of money, but it holds just as true for any gift from God. Including running.
It is a gift to be able to run. To run fast or to run slow. To run on a treadmill, on a track, in the rain, sleet, or snow. To run up hills and down hills. To run in heat and humidity and freezing temperatures and chills. To run.
Yet all to often, I find myself treating it as something I do on my own. I worry about my mileage and times. I worry about my injuries. I view my results as coming from my own effort. To an extent, they do. If I didn’t get out and run, I would not be a good runner. But the overarching truth is that if God didn’t want me to be a good runner, no measure of training could counteract His omnipotence and providence. And the converse is true: I wouldn’t have good times and happy races without God wishing it.
Eric Liddell said, “when I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” In my best moments, I feel that too. Running is a gift, and it feels like every step shouts praise to God. But far too easily I co-opt this gift, put it on a pedestal, and make it into an idol.
I constantly have to strip it down again. I love running, but I love running chiefly because I love God and He gave it to me to enjoy. The second I put a period in that first sentence after “I love running,” is the second there’s a problem.
Is there a gift you’re co-opting?