If you buy a brand-new automobile in this new year of 1991, you would expect to find a fact-filled owner's manual in the glove compartment. In the book you would see precisely how to take care of your fine new car in order to receive maximum benefits (which is what the designers had in mind). Similarly, we have been created by God. And He knows more about us than we will ever know. He breathed into Adam's nostrils "the breath of life" (Gen. 2:7). However, after our primordial grandparents sinned, we are destined to return to the dust of the earth from which we were derived (Gen. 3:1-9). As products of God, we too "come with" some instructions. The Owners Manual (Bible) tells us how we SHOULD live. When the customer does not properly maintain the equipment (the mind, the spirit, or the body), one certainly cannot blame the Manufacturer (God) for breakdowns (the consequences of sins).
Several noteworthy men in the Bible were physically strong. They had to be to be able to accomplish the tasks that God had called them to do. Even Moses at the age of 120, "His eyes were not weak and his strength was not gone." (Deut. 34:7). The legendary Samson was renowned for his incredible feats of strength (Judges 13-16). He was their Arnold Schwarzenegger of that day. Though Samson did not lead an entirely exemplary life, it is important to know that his name was recorded in the "Hall of Faith" (Heb. 11:32). Also, after Elijah's very dramatic, draining, confrontation with the 850 false prophets, the text says, "The power of the Lord came upon Elijah, and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he RAN ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel." 1 Kings 18:46). That man had to be in shape; King Ahab was RIDING in a chariot! Finally, like most young Jewish men, Jesus learned a trade. His hands must have been quite strong because he was a hard-working carpenter (Mark 6:3). He seems to be going everywhere on foot, up and down lots of hills (Mark 1:16; 6:6; 11:27, etc.)
The apostle Paul taught very clearly that our bodies are the sanctuary (Greek: naos of the Holy Spirit 1 Corinthians 3:16,17; 6:19, 20) and not to be cheapened in any way. He said, "You are not your own (1 Cor. 6:19b, NIV). We are valuable and we ought to glorify God with our bodies (v. 20). Paul granted that "physical training is of some value" in 1 Timothy 4:8. Though the human body can be toughened, it is, at the same time, a very delicate instrument and can take only so much abuse. So, pace yourself sensibly, and, if you get injured, remember that time is the best healer. Train; don't strain.
Even though none of us will live as long as Methuselah (Gen. 6:3; Psalm 90:10), you might be surprised by what ordinary people living today CAN do if they put their mind to it. I know a woman named Mary (now 77) who didn't start running at all until she was 70 years of age -- AFTER her husband died. She didn't have much to do. So, she started to run . . . and she has never stopped. She briskly jogs 12 miles per week, in addition to competitive road races. It is inspiring to be in her presence. On one particularly hot day, embarrassingly, she almost beat me (in front of a large crowd of people)! She's now training for the World Championships to be held in July,1991, in Finland!
In a three-mile road race, I competed against a 55 year-old man in Somers, Connecticut, last fall. Out of a field of about 60 people, he came in fourth place OVERALL (but first in our Grand Masters division) at a pace of 5 minutes 14 seconds per mile!
In another 6.2 mile road race in Baltimore, Maryland, last May, I had a personal record of 59:47, but of about 3,000 people in the race, the oldest person in the race was 82 years old. He finished only about two minutes behind me!
I've got a lot more facts to relate to you: Last June in Bridgeport, Connecticut, I personally witnessed a 55 year-old man run one mile in 4:55 (4 minutes and 55 seconds)! I thought to myself, "How is this POSSIBLE?" (That is four laps around the track.) It hasn't been that long ago (1954) since Dr. Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute barrier.
This past year at the Boston Marathon, the world was stunned when 41-year-old John Campbell broke the master's record of 2:11:04 (2 hours, 11 minutes, and 4 seconds). This could very well be the greatest marathon performance of all time! Many thought that the old record of 2:11:19, which was set 16 years earlier, would never be broken by anyone over 40.
Derek Turnbull, the elite "Wonder from Down Under" (New Zealand), is another amazing man. He's been running for 51 years! He has a sheep farm and spends most of his time wrestling sheep. At the end of the day he just takes off running for the pure joy of it. Last year at the U.S. Championships, he set world records in the 60-64 age group for 800 meters (2:1 2.62), for 1,500 meters (4:29.11), and, for the 5,000 meters (about 3.1 miles), a near-record mark of 16:46:31. A week later at the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon, he won gold medals in the 800 meters, the 1,500 meters (another world record of 4:28.66), and 10,000 on the road, the track, and cross country. Finally after 10 days of racing, he won the marathon in 2 hours, 46 minutes and 42 seconds! And, I understand that there is a centenarian (100 years-old) who is now preparing to be the first man to complete a marathon (26.2 miles) at that age!
Before you quit listening to the exploits of these "extraordinary" ordinary people, just remember who won the race between the tortoise and the hare. Easy does it, and steady as she goes.
Several years ago the newspaper gave much publicity to a very elderly lady who made the bold announcement that she planned to WALK from New York City to Los Angeles! When a reporter asked how she expected to accomplish such a seemingly impossible task, she confidently replied, ". . . by taking one step at a time!"
On July 19, 1990, another man reached the summit (14,410 feet high) of Mount Rainier in the State of Washington. You say, "What's so unusual about that? Hundreds of people have accomplished that before. The mountain is there and crazy people say they've gotta climb it because it IS there!" But there's a lot more to this story. He's a 32 year-old Christian man, Mark Frye, educated at Northeastern Christian Junior College in Villanova, Pa., and . . . his right leg is paralyzed. How did he get that way? He had joined the Baltimore police force for only a few months when he was shot down in the line of duty. He was confronted by a vicious gunman who emptied his .38-caliber weapon into brother Frye's back. Several of the slugs lodged near his spinal cord. He then underwent years of experimental surgery at Duke University Hospital where doctors used special lasers to seal the nerve endings along the spine and reduce his intense pain. Since then he has undergone two years of grueling physical therapy. Although his right leg remains completely paralyzed, he can now walk (but only with the aid of crutches). His father is a former DuPont engineer and he constructed some special gears so that his son could resume mountain climbing. About a year ago, Mark set his sights on the technically-demanding Kautz route to the top. The last 5,000 feet is always covered with ice and snow on sheer, steep, vertical faces. When Mark reached the summit, however, his first thoughts were NOT about how difficult the climb had been, but of how FORTUNATE he was! He said, "When I was making my way along the snow, I thought about my wife, my kids, and my parents. I thought about the horror of that night eight years ago and how GOOD it is to be alive. I cannot feel my right leg, but I can sure feel my heart!" He added, "The one thing I learned is that, you can look at disability from any angle. You can look at a physical disability as a handicap, but I don't do that anymore. About 95% of a disability is in your HEAD!" He continued, "When I saw the summit, I must have cried the last 20 minutes as we climbed. Everything went through my mind - especially the last eight years, all the bad things I've had to struggle through." Because of freezing temperatures and winds of 50 mph at the peak, Mark and his three fellow-climbers could savor their accomplishment for only about 10 minutes before their descent. As you might have expected, Mark Frye has already set his sights on higher goals - Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa.
I just passed the big five-0 in 1990 (and I don't mean Hawaii 5-0). After I got over the shock of it, I started looking around and realized that nothing had really changed. In fact, I'm in a lot better shape than I was when I was 40, and in some ways, than I was 30. You see, I have to keep thinkin' young to stay ahead of my six kids. Three are grown, one is a senior in high school, graduating next June, and then there are the two little girls, ages 6 and 2! So, you can see whey I'm 50, going on 30.
As you make YOUR New Year's resolution(s), just remember these two passages, and always keep them in mind:
"I can do anything by the one (Jesus) who gives me the power" - Paul. "You can do nothing without me." - Jesus (John 15:5c SEB).