Have you ever seen a group of runners jogging on a trail? Do you remember the person who was lagging way behind all of the others? Well. That would be me. Around two weeks ago, I started to run with the cross country team for my school. And, you guessed it, I’m typically dead last. Honestly, I don’t feel terrible about it. I do my best. Even though a runner in a group feels some competitive drive, cross country isn’t really about beating your teammates. It’s about surpassing what you did yesterday, even if it’s hard. Looking back on my first day of running, I see what I was doing wrong. I was constantly stopping and starting, because I wasn’t in shape enough to hold a fast pace. I had to drastically slow my running to be able to maintain the same pace throughout the time I was running. I have been able to keep running throughout a 5K without stopping (with some encouragement from a pack of bees and my running partner). I’ve seen my body drastically improve because I’ve started to run. Coincidentally, September is self-improvement month.

What I’m here to tell you about today isn’t how you should all start running because it’s great for your body. You already know that. I’m talking about working out your spiritual muscles. Don’t stop reading now, I’m dead serious. Someone out there needs to hear this. If you aren’t spending an allotted amount of time a day keeping whatever spiritual relationship you have with God, then those muscles will fade away. You are either growing in your relationship with God, or shrinking from it. There is not an in between. There is no stand-still. Get your priorities straight. Which is more important, your TV time in the afternoon, or keeping your relationship with God? I can tell you one thing: If I stopped running every morning, I would be just as in shape as I was when I started. Do you really want to go back to square one with God?

How to grow in your spiritual muscles:

Pray. Praying doesn’t have to be super formal, just know that you are having a conversation with the one who created the universe. We’re unbelievably lucky, and we have the chance to be saved from our sin. Why don’t we just take fifteen minutes out of our busy lives and thank him for giving his only son’s life to save ours?

Read God’s word. Memorize it if you have to. I’ve been on the Bible Quiz team at GT for years, and memorizing the Bible has impacted me as a teenager more than many people know. I constantly have words of guidance from God to use in any situation I’m in. They are my comfort, discipline, healing, and strength.

Hang with a good crowd. Some of my friends tell me that they were influenced by the wrong crowd, and their life went wrong. They will have to live with what they did at that time for the rest of their lives. Don’t make the mistake of being friends with the wrong people.

I’m going to swim practice this afternoon. I had a run this morning, and now I’m going to work out again. Why am I putting myself through all this? I want to be stronger. I want to be faster. I’m ready to put in the work to be a better athlete. If I’m willing to put in time and energy just to get my physical body in shape, it only makes sense that I’d value my spiritual life even more. Is it hard? Yes. Self-improvement stinks when you’re going through it. Believe me when I say that it will be well worth it in the end.

I don’t know how strong you are in your faith, reader. I don’t know the first thing about you. The only thing I know is that God has laid it on my heart that somebody out there needs to improve themselves. They need to find their priorities. They need to reach out to God, and make things right with him.

Honestly, what better time to do it then Self-Improvement Month?