Then the kingdom of God should be compared to ten runners who strapped on their water bottles and went out to run a marathon. Five of them were foolish, five of them wise. For when the foolish took their water bottles, they just took a little water, and not really any type of sodium replacement. But the wise mixed up their Gatorade well in advance and remembered to bring it, along with some energy gel packs for good measure. As the race continued, and the shadows grew longer, they all plodded along at about the same pace. But mid-afternoon, there was a cry from the sidelines: "Go runners! There's only 6 miles to go!" At that point, all of those runners reached for refreshment, to get a boost of energy before the final stretch. However, the foolish, having no water left, panted to the wise: "Give us some of your energy pack - we're dyin' here!" But the wise replied: "Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; rather, run to the grocery store just off the course, and see if they'll sell you a juice or something." While they went to buy, the wise finished the race. By the time the foolish made it back, the sag wagons had already through, and the trash collectors were sweeping up the last of the paper cups. The foolish begged the officials to let them finish, showing them their race numbers, and assuring them that they were legitimate. But it was of no avail. The officials simply replied that they had been disqualified, as no runner is permitted off the race course during the event. Besides, the finish line was closed.
It has been my experience that not carrying enough fuel for a race or training run can have drastic consequences on the outcome. You can have a very high level of conditioning, but if you don't feed your body properly, all of that hard work building up your muscles and cardiovascular is not much help. In the one marathon that I have done so far - Paris 2007 - my body was finished at mile 20. No more oil in the lamp. I finished, but only under duress.
I have always been a minimalist when it comes to extra stuff for running. It is the simplicity of the sport that I appreciate - strap on your shoes and go. I also hate to be dependent on anything, so I've never trained on anything but water, and the occasional banana and dried fruit. But I thought I might try some of these new-fangled products they've got out there. So today, I threw a lemon-flavoured fizzy tablet in my water that would supposedly work wonders, and stuffed a mysterious silver pouch of "energy"labeled "Apple Flavour" in my sack. This would be interesting.
Two hours later, I whizzed into my finish spot, ready for more. Miles, that is. It was the fastest time I've ever recorded for that distance, and I still felt like a million bucks. It seems as if my conditioning had outpaced my fueling. Once I got that part in place, we were banging on all five cylinders. I felt so...energetic. (Duh.)
Okay, back to the kingdom of God; I find a similar dynamic in my spiritual walk with the Lord. It may be that I've got a certain level of conditioning - I've been taught how to pray, parts of the Bible are familiar, I surround myself with other people who encourage me. But I often forget that it is the fresh, regular intake of prayer and His Word that will carry me to the end. Maybe this is what the wise and foolish virgins...er, I mean runner....was all about. We know that they all started well. But which ones finished well? Those who were prepared.
How to be prepared for the end of the race? Let's find our daily strength in the One who ran ahead and waits for us at the finish line.