Why I Run on Hills

Written By Joy-Ann Wood, Barbados

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? (Ps121:1)

Our running group has been training for a marathon over the last few months. As part of our training, our coach designated hills training on a weekly basis.

Hill runs are tough. So why do we do it?

Precisely because it’s tough.

Hills increase the difficulty of a run and improve endurance. Hill training is all about going up steep inclines that require greater effort than training on a flat surface. As you run, you have to lift your knees higher than usual, which develops muscles and increases power. Because of the greater effort required, strength, speed and anaerobic capacity are built. Our coach especially likes to emphasize the importance of “using our arms” to build momentum and push ourselves up the hill.

Three-time Olympic gold medalist, Florence G. Joyner, once said, “Hill training is often more of a mental challenge than a physical one.” It is a mental challenge, because we have to convince ourselves that we can do it, that we can keep going, even when our bodies cry out for rest and all we want to do is give up.

In the spiritual realm, the same rules apply. “Hills” build our spiritual strength. Spiritual hills are the trials that present themselves when least expected. These trials can build our spiritual muscles for the bigger situations in our lives—whatever we experience today will train us for the future.

While hill training requires greater use of our knees, spiritual hills call for more time spent on our knees, praying and seeking God for endurance, asking Him to mold and change our hearts as we rely on the Holy Spirit to empower us.

“Using our arms” during difficult seasons can also help us, as we praise God during such times. When we raise our arms in praise and adoration to Jesus, we surrender our circumstances to Him. Singer Tauren Wells wrote a song, Hills & Valleys, which says, “. . . He’s the God of the hills and valleys, hills and valleys, and I am not alone.” Singing praises to God during difficult circumstances helps us take the focus off of ourselves, and think about who God is and what He is able to do.

Sometimes, when we go through the hills of our spiritual life, we may feel lonely, discouraged, and despondent. In some ways, this is similar to the exhaustion experienced with hill training. In those moments, it is very encouraging when a fellow runner shouts my name, saying, “Come on, Joy, let’s go! Tell yourself you can do this! Let’s go, push!” Similarly, during the trials of life, we can take comfort in the fact that Jesus is always with us.

Jesus has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). In Isaiah 41:10, God says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” God is there throughout our spiritual journey, strengthening us for whatever hills lie up ahead.

On those days when you have to literally push yourself to look up to the heavens for strength, remember the words of the Psalmist, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?” (Psalm 121:1). Take joy in the fact that you have sought the face and strength of Jesus in those hilly moments of daily life, instead of relying on yourself (Psalm 105:4).

As you train spiritually and prepare to conquer whatever comes your way, may you look to God for His strength, perseverance and encouragement. We can have faith that God will come through for us, that He will bring us through victoriously (Isaiah 49:23). He is right beside us cheering us on! Amen.

ODJ: The Failure Wall

July 22, 2016 

READ: Mark 9:14-29 

[The disciples] asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?” Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer” (vv.28-29).

What if you were asked to write your failures on a wall for everyone to see? What if the person doing the asking was your boss? That’s exactly what happens every day at Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp. Jeff Stibel, chief executive officer, came up with the Failure Wall. Stibel encourages his employees to write their failures on the 10 by 15 foot surface in order to succeed in their work and in life.

Jesus wanted His disciples to acknowledge and own their failures so they could succeed in His mission. Here’s one thing the disciples could have written down: “We didn’t seek God’s power in prayer while dealing with a demon.”

When Jesus, Peter, James and John arrived at the foot of the mountain after Jesus had been transfigured, they found an anguished father whose son was possessed by a demon (Mark 9:2-3,17-18). The evil spirit had robbed the boy of his speech and hearing.

The father had brought his son to be healed by Jesus, but in His absence the man had approached the disciples. Though they’d been given authority to cast out demons (6:7,13), on this day they weren’t able to do it. Jesus healed the man’s son, causing the disciples to ask: “Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?” (9:28). The disciples had tried to act in their own strength, instead of praying to God and depending on Him.

We all face the reality of spiritual attacks in this life. And our own sinful nature can lead us to follow temptations that will lead to failure. How can we be better prepared to follow God and not fail? By studying Scripture (Ephesians 6:17), putting on our spiritual armour (6:10-17), growing in faith (1 John 5:4-5), relying on Jesus’ power (John 16:33) and depending on Him in prayer (Ephesians 6:18).

—Marvin Williams

365-day plan: Mark 8:22-9:1

Read 2 Kings 4:32-35 to see how Elisha prepared to battle the dark force of death. 
In what ways do you need to be prepared for encounters with spiritual enemies? What piece of armour in Ephesians 6:10-17 do you most need to put on today? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: you’re at war!

July 15, 2013 

READ: Ephesians 6:10-20 

We are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but againstevil rulers andauthorities of theunseen world (v.12).

So he did nothing when Hitler acquired Austria and the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain realised too late that Hitler’s word meant nothing, and as German tanks rolled into Poland, Great Britain had to declare war.

Sometimes I wonder whether I’m a spiritual Chamberlain, oblivious to the fact that I’m at war. Consider Jude 1:9, which says, “Michael was arguing with the devil about Moses’ body”. What?! Michael and Satan tussled over Moses’ dead body? Now switch back to the story of Moses, which simply says “the Lord buried him . . . but to this day no one knows the exact place” (Deuteronomy 34:6). Apparently that simple statement, “the Lord buried him”, conceals a lot of angelic activity.

I don’t know what Satan wanted with Moses’ body. Perhaps he wanted to parade it in front of the Israelites to dishearten them. Perhaps he simply wanted a souvenir.

I wonder if Satan shadowed the Israelites during their trek in the desert. Did he hound them into grumbling about food and the size of the giants in the Promised Land? When he saw an opening did he swoop in to scoop up Moses? How would the Israelites have responded if they realised their trials were part of a larger war?

The first soldiers to die are often the ones who don’t know they’re in a battle. Be on guard, you’re at war.—Mike Wittmer
Matthew 10:16-42‹

Read 2 Kings 6:8-23to learn about the unseen world.  
Think of a temptation that grips you from time to time. How will it help you to remember that your obedience is part of a larger, cosmic war? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: confronting the darkness

July 3, 2013 

READ: Matthew 16:13-28 

Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from Me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to Me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s” (v.23).

If we believe in the existence of heaven and hell, then we must also believe Scripture when it speaks of an active spirit world. Just as Jesus acknowledged that Peter did not receive his messianic revelation through ‘flesh and blood’ (God the Father revealed it), Paul reminds us that “we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

The powers of darkness are real, and in a moment of great regret, Peter (one who understood and believed in Jesus as his Messiah) gave in to his humanity by putting his own desires above the will of the Father. Not all demonic influence manifests in contorted bodies and violent threats (Matthew 17:15-18; Mark 5:6-20). For Peter, it was the seemingly simple observation that surely Christ had not come to die. More than highlighting Peter’s failures though, this particular interchange with Jesus also reveals the infinite power of Jesus. He’s greater than any spiritual enemy (Psalm 18:39-42).

Spiritual battles aren’t reserved for the super spiritual. Jesus has already done the work; we simply have to walk in it (Colossians 2:13-15; Revelation 12:11).

—Regina Franklin
Matthew 7:1-12 ‹

Read John 8:36-44 to see what specific spiritual challenges Jesus confronted. How can we apply the weapons Paul lists?  
What spiritual challenges are you facing? How will you rely on God’s power to overcome them? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)