I’ve just completed three months of training to prepare myself to carry a cross to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. I have four more months to go. What started out as something between Jesus, one huge mountain and me has gained momentum. Many of you have written or called to ask me about this trip. Now Fox News wants to do a mini- documentary about it. I already have churches asking me to come speak about the climb, and I don’t know how to respond. To tell the truth, I’m struggling to make it through the training, let alone climb the mountain.
I could never be a long-distance runner. When I was a teenager in PE class, we had to run around the football field four times. In any kind of race, I love the exhilaration of toeing the starting line. You anticipate the pistol’s sound and then, in a split second, it fires. You’re off!
People cheer, wave and shout your name as you accelerate up to speed. As you move ahead, all eyes are on you, but then you turn the corner and drop out of sight. The cheering stops and your enthusiasm begins to drop. The desire to race diminishes. Then come the dreaded second and third laps. Borrrrrring. No cheers, no applause, no one hanging on your every move. Just running.
But the race is won not on the start or finish. It is won on how well you perform in the second and third laps. If you don’t run them well, even the best athlete in the world can’t compensate. On the last lap, everyone cheers on their favorite runner. Your heart is pounding through your chest as you catch a glimpse of the finish line. You have nothing left, but somehow, you dig deep inside and push toward the finish. You cross to the roar of the crowd and fall down exhausted.
I like the beginning of the race. I like the end. The challenge comes between the two.
My trainer has me concentrating on different groups of muscles. He always talks about strengthening my core. For the other non-athletes out there, the core muscles are the ones you have left after you cut off your arms, legs and head. What’s left is called the core: the hip, spine, back and stomach muscles that keep you stable.
As I’ve worked on my core, I’ve noticed increased stability. In the beginning, when I tried to drink from my water bottle while I walked on the treadmill, I spilled it down my chest. But now, I can run and drink without taking a mini-shower because I’ve strengthened my core. And because I’m preparing for a climb, my trainer and I have also been working on leg, calf and other muscles with fancier names.
As I enter the second lap of training, I realize there’s another muscle I must develop and strengthen: my will. What makes you push harder during the boring second and third laps? Your desire and will. Your will pushes through the pain. Your will takes over when your muscles give out. And if you don’t have the will, you won’t do well.
Jesus spoke about the will—not His, but His Father’s. When the disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1c), Jesus reminded all of us to center our prayers around His will and His kingdom.
I love what Phil. 2:13b says about the will: “for it is God Who is at work in you to both will and to work for His good pleasure.” God works within me to give me the will, to enlarge the will, to strengthen the will and to build up the will so I can do work that will bring Him good pleasure.
I am praying that God will strengthen not only my muscles, but also my will to do the climb. When I began this journey, I said it was about Jesus, a mountain and me. And on Aug. 3, as I stand at the bottom of the mountain with the cross on my shoulder, I will realize that in the end, it will only be about Jesus. And in the end, only He will equip me for the task.