Four Minutes

For nearly a century, a great debate raged in track and field: Could a human being run a mile in under four minutes? Someone ran a mile downhill in 4:02 in 1863. Someone came very close in 1943. Medical professionals began to debate whether a human being could run a mile in under four minutes.

Then, 70 years ago this May,  British medical student Roger Bannister ran the first (recorded) sub four-minute mile. Shortly after Bannister’s achievement, Australian John Landy also ran a sub four-minute mile. Soon after, many others did. As of today, 1,755 runners have run the mile in under four minutes. The current record is 3:43:14. The impossible has become a benchmark. What changed after Bannister broke the barrier that so many could accomplish what was considered impossible? The answer is attitude.

Yes, advancements in training and nutrition are factors today. But they weren’t when people started duplicating Bannister’s feat. The attitude was no longer: “this is impossible.” The attitude was now: “I can do it faster than anyone else.” In our faith lives we can also come to feel that we are pursuing an impossible goal: Christian perfection. We can be very hard on ourselves when, by our own measures, we fall short in God’s eyes. You see, no one runs a four-minute mile in Jesus’ economy. We don’t have to. God’s grace is sufficient. Yes, when The Holy Spirit dwells in us, it is our desire to be more and more like Christ. But the “spiritual four-minute mile” is indeed a human impossibility.

God doesn’t want us to be perfect. He wants us to be His:

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

Believing we need to be perfect for God will crush our spirit. Each time we fall short and beat ourselves up for it we put distance between God and us. God wants our heart, not perfection. When He has that, He will change us into a new creation and, day by day, we will become more like Jesus. And be warned: greatest cause of discouragement is comparison.

We look at other believers and we are convinced they are running sub four-minute “spiritual miles.”  It can seem everyone is running a faster spiritual race than you. Trust me, they’re not. Their journey is theirs; your journey is yours. Keep your eyes on God, not some imaginary stopwatch you use to time your spiritual self. When you stumble, know that God is there to pick you up. Confess what you need to confess to Him and trust His forgiveness.

You’re never alone in this race. God is with you every step of the way. In moments of discouragement, remember, no one has ever run a sub four-minute spiritual mile. God is faithful and His love endures forever.

1 Comment
  • Steve Launer
    Posted at 19:32h, 13 February Reply

    Please remember verse 9 as you posted. Works do not save! God planned “works” for us to accomplish to further His kingdom. You are saved by grace alone through faith alone. And I agree NOT to compare yourself to another on this faith journey.

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