Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, uses an athlete analogy to illustrate the importance of discipline in pursuing a life of faith. Just as athletes discipline their body in order to perform well in the arena, so too we as followers of Jesus discipline our bodies that we may run the life of faith.
I volunteer as a defensive line coach for the Swift Current Colts many years ago. As part of the training we would have these linemen run ladder drills. These were meant to develop footwork and power in order that when they were actually in a game they would be able to dominate the opposing players. Never did our athletes boast in their ability to run ladder drills or any of the other fundamental drills. They took pride and boasted in their accomplishment on the field. Yet, had it not been for the drills they would not had success during the game.
Too often we feel that we need to get rid of rituals and discipline practices in our faith because they take time away from doing the important things for God. This is counter-intuitive and rejects the teaching found in the Corinthians passage linked earlier. Because the life of faith is even more permanent it is all the more important that those of us who follow Jesus discipline ourselves. We need to let the rituals and disciplines of our faith shape us into the kind of people God desires us to be. The caution is that we boast in the discipline and not allow them to have their work in transforming us.
One of the practices that the Church around the world has practiced since nearly the beginning of its existence has been the practice of lent. A time of preparation where followers of Jesus participate in a fast in anticipation of the fulfillment of Jesus’ work on the cross. It is a period of time that begins with Ash Wednesday and proceeds during the weeks leading up to Easter.
Perhaps in time between now and Easter you want to fast from something in order discipline yourself. Find those things are distracting and weighing you down in your spiritual life. Remove those for a season. You may just find incredible freedom to run the race marked before you.