Reflections From a 70.3 Ironman: Anything Is Possible – A Common Grace

A Photo September 6th 2013 No comments yet  

file0001595609600Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said, “The good Lord made the body capable to do just about anything, it is your mind that you have to convince.” Those in the triathlon Ironman community who believe anything is possible have convinced their mind.

“Anything is Possible” is the motto of Ironman. They don’t mean that ducks can talk or humans can fly, but that men and women are capable of doing so much more than they realize. I believe this is a common grace given to humanity by God.

Being in a community of focused, dedicated athletes gave me great respect for their determination and effort, especially those that competed without the use of their legs. Watching hand-cycle athletes push their cycles up enormous hills was awe-inspiring. I got to use my whole body to complete the 70.3 miles; they did it with only their arms.

Additionally, I saw participant after participant that was much older than me. I saw those in their 50s and 60s complete the same course I did. In fact, there was one man who was 75 running slowly, but he was in the race.

How do these athletes, whether they are 75 age-groupers or 25-year-old professionals, do it? I believe they have experienced one of God’s common graces. Some athletes will recognize that their abilities ultimately come from God; others may not. But all are given the ability to do so much more than they originally thought. That is why they truly believe “Anything is Possible.”

The main thing I learned was that humans are far more capable of doing hard things than they realize. Many do not experience their human potential— physically, spiritually, or intellectually. For different reasons, people fail to try or at least persevere in trying. Yet God gives all humans a common grace in providing abilities that have huge potential.

Here’s the thing that people need to know: they are capable of doing so much more than they realize. This is because God has created them in His image. What I can do is encourage people to try and to keep trying, in whatever ignites their passion. I can encourage them because God can do anything with anyone, whether they acknowledge it or not.

There were nearly 700 finishers of the same distance in this triathlon. Some competitors were helpful and humble. Others were foul-mouthed. But because “it’s in Him we move and live and have our being,” all were given the ability by God to finish. This is a common grace given to all humans.

So what do you do with this common grace, especially for someone who knows the Creator? It is to do all things heartily. The Apostle Paul says in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.” The original Greek says to be energized from the soul. In whatever we do, we are to work from the soul, from the deepest part of who we are. Athletes will call it “digging deep” or “leaving it all on the floor.” That is how God has designed humans to live.

The 1924 Olympic sprinter Eric Liddell was a Christian. A story goes that as he was talking to his sister about missionary work in China he said, “God has made me fast. And when I run I sense his pleasure…so not running would be holding God in contempt.” Liddell knew this common grace given to men. The abilities are endowed by God and to not use them would be holding God in contempt. Liddell knew his abilities came from God. Others may not. Both have been given a common grace to do more than they could ever realize.

May we never hold God in contempt because we hesitate to try and to persevere trying! May we know the joy of discovering that we actually do have the capacity to do far beyond what we originally thought. And for the Christian, may we fully participate in life, doing all things from the soul so that one day we can tell others that these good gifts are given to all men and women from a good God.


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