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I became a competitive sprinter at the age of 39. I mainly raced against myself, always working to beat my own times but in the summer of 2009 I did compete once at the Missouri State Games in the 100 meter dash.
I gotta tell you though, I got into competitive racing for the wrong reasons and will talk about that in this post.
I was very passionate about sprinting and would go to the track in rain or shine. I would spend 20-30 minutes stretching and warming up and spend the next couple of hours sprinting 100 meters and then 200 to convince my mind and body that the 100 meter dash now feels easier. I was also weight training 3 days a week at the time and this program was geared entirely toward making me faster on the track.
Each time I trained, I put all the mental and physical energy I could rally into my workout to produce the favorable result I wanted – crossing that finish line faster than I had the time before.
Urban dictionary defines the term in the zone as a temporary state of heightened concentration experienced by a performing athlete that enables peak performance. Boy, is this definition true! As my coach told me, during the actual competition, you WILL run better than you ever have before. She was right. During the competition it was almost as if nobody else was sprinting down that track but me once I left the starting block. I got in the zone and just ran as hard and fast as I could and I did indeed finish with a much better time that day than ever before.
There were even men and women in their 70’s sprinting against others in their own age group that day at the games. It was very inspiring and we got it all on video!
I stopped sprinting shortly after that race in 2009. Like I said, I was training and competing for the wrong reasons so I needed to give that up for a long season. Although my husband Steve said he did not feel like I was doing this, I knew in my heart that I had put training and competing before my family and even made some decisions that I shouldn’t have made along the way that could have ended up altering the destiny of my kids. I am so thankful though that God is a God of second chances (and third and fourth…..). He has redeemed those wrong decisions and everything is back in place as it should be.
After quitting I spent the next 3 1/2 years working out at home, but just yesterday I started a new workout program away from home called CrossFit. It wasn’t even on my radar, but I saw a few Facebook posts by people doing CrossFit and began to get a desire to change up my current workout program about 3 weeks ago.
This is significant because during the 3 1/2 years exercising at home God was simultaneously doing a brand new thing in my spiritual life. As a result of what He has done in me and is continuing to do, I saw such a drastic change in my perspective during my first grueling CrossFit workout yesterday and have been thinking ever since how and when I could share this with others to help them and give them encouragement. God has provided an opportunity less than 24 hours later in this blog post. He is so cool!
Now, I don’t mean to jump all over the place here, but this must be told in a certain order so keep reading this post with the thought in mind that what I am about to tell you next is what has transpired over the last 3 1/2 years. Then, at the end, I get to tell you the results of this kind of living since I witnessed these results firsthand for myself during yesterday’s CrossFit workout.
Back in early 2010 I suddenly felt The Lord making it very clear that I needed to stop training with a personal trainer and not pursue competing any longer. I can honestly say, what I did during that time period in my life was never meant to be. It wasn’t part of God’s plan for me, but I wasn’t listening to God due to some intense insecurities I had.
I was using the training and competing as a way to feel worth more. I placed a high amount of pressure on myself, continually trying to prove to myself and others that I could do better…and better… and better. Man I’m thankful God got ahold of me and steered me in another direction.
I remember God speaking to me one day in my heart and saying, If you lay this down I will let you run another kind of race…a better race. These days I am more focused on running a different kind of race. I want to be In The Jesus Zone, running and finishing my spiritual race well.
1 Timothy 4:8 says,
Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come. (NLT)
I took a picture of a tree branch in my yard the other day because dead tree branches always remind me that I have the option of abiding in Christ and seeing His life flow to me or trying to do life on my own and seeing myself shrivel up inside.
The tree branch I found and took a picture of got disconnected from the vine and the results were not pretty.
Jesus refers to Himself as The Vine in John chapter 15.
John 15:5 (CEV)
I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to Me, and I stay joined to you, then you will produce lots of fruit. But you cannot do anything without Me.
I recall one day years ago watching my neighbor cut down a huge tree, branch by branch. He had a tall pile of tree branches sitting there for me to watch day by day. Not very many days had passed before the huge pile of branches looked as dried up and dead as the branch in my yard.
So, if we know that staying connected to Jesus (the Vine), is the answer to having His amazing life flow through us, what stops us from taking action to stay in the Jesus zone?Let me backtrack a little and share, from my experience, at least some possible reasons for this lack of abiding on our part.
From what I have seen in my own experience and other peoples’ as well, some tend to spend their lives seeking God consistently, but seeking Him with a wrong motive of fear that if they don’t, God will be mad at them. Others just give up all together because they don’t see anyway they can ever possibly measure up to ‘God’s expectations.’
I actually vacillated back and forth between trying real hard, but with the wrong motive (fear) and giving up all together. I tried, I gave up. I tried, I gave up. I tried, I gave up. But when I gave up, I wasn’t really truly giving up because when people truly give up or come to the end of themselves in an area, that is when God steps in. So I was just resting from my self-efforts for a while because they had worn me out once again. But before long I would gear up again for another round.
Have you noticed that immediately after someone receives Jesus as their Savior they start out on the right path by connecting with God on a personal level on a daily basis. In fact, their whole life centers around God, but before long they get sidelined from the idea that I have to do this or I have to do that.
They lose that simple, child-like faith that just remembers Jesus loves me this I know and He wants to hang out with me. Andy Stanley says it great in his teaching series titled Free. He says, “Our natural mode of operation is to say, God, thank you for what You did for me, now let me tell you what I’m gonna do for you. I’m now going to live a better life.”
Actually, although it took me about 40 years to figure this out, I have come to the conclusion that I can’t live a better life, but what I can do is allow Christ to live His life through me! That’s gonna turn out way better than anything I could do on my own anyway.
Both of these methods; seeking God, but with a fearful motive, or just giving up seeking Him all together, are detrimental to our relationship with Him. There is a new way.
As a result of the finished work of Jesus on the cross, we have been invited into a New Covenant and have been given the privilege of relating to God in a closer, much better way than the way people related to God in the Old Covenant (see Hebrews 8:6-13).
Understanding this New Covenant and what it means for us was one of the main keys in unlocking true intimacy with Christ for both Steve, my husband, and myself over this past year.
Before this, we were still relating to God based on the Old Covenant and carried wrong misconceptions about Him that were causing anxiety in our lives on many levels. Once we both started seeing the true nature of Father God and the amazing covenant He had made with us, wild horses couldn’t drag us from the desire to abide in Christ. We now had the want to syndrome instead of the have to syndrome because that’s what understanding God’s grace does for people – it changes them from the inside out.
Let me show you here some of the differences between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. I think you will find your spirit doing back flips like ours was when we first learned this wonderful news!
Old Covenant of Law Vs. the New Covenant of Grace
Old Covenant: The children of Israel were cursed if they did not obey God’s commandments (see Deuteronomy 28:15-20)
New Covenant: We, as believers have been redeemed from the curse of the law and will not be punished because all the punishment for our sins was laid on the body of Jesus Christ on the cross. (see Isaiah 53; Galatians 3:13)
Note: Living with this mindset actually leads to a greater level of obedience
Old Covenant: Depending on self-efforts produces behavior modification without heart transformation (this is what the Pharisees had)
New Covenant: Beholding the beauty of Jesus and His finished work brings about inner transformation, which produces good works that are motivated by God’s love (see 2 Corinthians 3:18)
Old Covenant: The blood sacrifices of animals covered the sins of the children of Israel for only one year, and the process had to be repeated every year (see Hebrews 10:3)
New Covenant: The blood of Jesus has removed the sins – past, present and future – of believers, completely and perfectly, once and for all (see Hebrews 10:8-12)
Old Covenant: Obeying the law could not and did not give the children of Israel the power to stop sin in their lives. The same goes for us today if we try to live under the law. The law in and of itself is holy, just and good, but it does not hold the power to make us holy, just and good – not because the law is at fault, but because we cannot keep the law perfectly.
New Covenant: Sin has no dominion over us believers, since we are no longer under law, but under grace (see Romans 6:14)
Old Covenant: The children of Israel were robbed of their confidence in the goodness of God because they were always looking at themselves to see how well or poorly they performed (self-conscious)
New Covenant: Believers can have a tremendous sense of confidence and security in Christ because they are now looking to Jesus and not themselves (Christ-conscious)
Old Covenant: The children of Israel could not have an intimate relationship with God because their unrighteousness put distance between them and God
Old Covenant: The children of Israel could not enter the holy of holies (where the presence of God was). Only the high priest could, and that only once a year, on the Day of Atonement. (see Leviticus 16: 2,14)
New Covenant: Not only can we, as believers, enter God’s holy presence, we can also come boldly to His throne of grace to find mercy and grace in our time of need because of Jesus’ perfect atonement (see Hebrews 4:16)
Old Covenant: The children of Israel were under the ministry of death (see 2 Corinthians 3:7)
* Note: I adapted this list from Joseph Prince’s book, Unmerited Favor, pages 178-179!
If that contrast didn’t get you excited then I think I need to check your pulse! Just typing these got me so excited I burned the meal I was warming up in the turbo oven. Oh well, who cares about the meal…I’m living in the New Covenant!
So in order to live in the Jesus zone, you have to have the want to, and in order to have the want to without feeling like you have to work up the desire in your own strength, you have to know what you really have in Christ. The great news is, there is no end to this journey because this is exactly what the Bible does; it tells us all about what we have in Christ.
Now you have a whole new motive for abiding in Him, not a motive of fear that you will be punished if you get off course, but a knowledge that God loves you with an everlasting love which produces a motive free of fear and a zeal inside you for God to continually reveal the beauty of Jesus to you as you live in the Jesus zone!
Now, I am so excited to be able to add this next part that will show you the results of living in the Jesus zone. When I was training and competing years ago I had many insecurities as I mentioned before. God has since then shown me my true identity in Christ Jesus and it has literally made me a different person and transformed my life and my reactions to life. Yesterday during my first CrossFit workout I saw the difference in myself and I got so excited. Let me tell you about it.
First of all, I knew in starting this new workout at a new place I was going to be meeting lots of new people. Although I am a people person, before God did this awesome work in my life, I would have worried about if those people were going to like me not. Now, since I have learned that I can pray about everything and depend on Jesus to give me favor with people, I had already prayed about this at home and had a deep confidence inside that God would give me favor and I wouldn’t have to be anything but myself.
Next was the grueling workout. I was actually very surprised at how hard it was for me. I was slower than anyone else in the group, but let me tell you that I continued to feel completely confident throughout, even though it was clear that I was the most unfit. This was and is huge for me.
There was one point that I came close to crying because the workout was so hard and because I knew I was behind everyone else. Nobody else was yelling at me to get moving or speed up. It was simply my old insecurity trying to rear it’s ugly head, but guess what? It couldn’t rear it’s ugly head because of what God has spent the last 3 1/2 years doing in me. He has been and is continuing to get me stable and solid on the inside from the promises in His Word.
So instead of crying the thought that came up in my heart immediately to counteract that insecurity was, “no, no, no Sandra, you are complete in Christ!” I didn’t cry, I pushed through and I felt great at the end of my workout. I can’t even explain to you what it felt like to go do that workout without feeling like I had to prove my worth and value, but I could just go and work hard and have fun and be ok with the fact that it will take time to get fit again. I just know in my gut that God is going to use it to make me a stronger person in more ways than just physically.
I have been marveling at the difference in my reaction compared to the years, just 3 1/2 years ago, that I trained and competed before. I was never good enough for myself back then and put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to be something and prove something.
CrossFit is competitive fitness and that is why I joined it. I am going to have a blast competing with myself and my times, learning the ways that I can improve, but my motive for doing it is now completely healthy. This time around, I am not doing it to be worth more because I now understand that I am already everything I need to be in Christ Jesus; therefore, I can just live out of my true identity and have fun with the challenge.
One of the major things that God used in my life to help me learn who I really was in Christ was Andy Stanley’s teaching series called Free. Here is the link to this series where you can watch it for free. Believe me, it WILL be worth your time! Here’s the link: FREE
If you have not yet made Jesus your Savior and received the wonderful joy that His finished work on the cross has provided for you to live in, please visit my page here titled Jesus In The Driver’s Seat. On this page I explain the good news of the gospel and you will have the opportunity to pray a prayer of salvation, making Jesus your Savior! Jesus loves you and His arms are wide open!