This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.
I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. – 1Corinthians 9:23-27
For as he thinks within himself, so he is. – Proverbs 23:7
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2
As a young single man, I met up regularly for about two years with some of my buddies for runs around the Rice University campus. For the majority of our run, we “jogged” at a fairly fast clip. And then toward the end, someone would pick up the pace and we’d finish in a race. In junior and senior high school my sports were swimming, surfing, and basketball. I was never known as much of a speedster when it came to running.
But one day, near the end of our run around Rice, something happened that I’ve never forgotten. As usual, I was sucking for air and trying hard to keep up with the pack when someone started to pass me. Something inside of me said, “Not this time! Fred, let go and abandon yourself to this!” Suddenly, I felt as though my legs were moving faster than I had ever known them to move. I never knew I could run that fast. It was if I had just discovered a gear I didn’t even know I had. Not only was I keeping up, I was passing guys.
When you shift your car into a higher gear to go faster, the engine does not work harder. The RPMs (revolutions per minute) actually decrease and the engine runs more efficiently (with less effort if you will), and you go faster. That’s the best example I can think of to explain what I experienced that day. It wasn’t about trying harder. It was about letting go of what was holding me back, and discovering a new gear I didn’t know I had.
Finishing the run first, I got a look from the others that seemed to say, “Man, you’re taking this too seriously!” But for me, that wasn’t it at all. It wasn’t about besting someone else, it was about overcoming something inside of me. And the barrier was not physical, it was in my heart and mind.
Some people hate running. That’s why it is always dangerous to compare the Christian life to a race. There’s a risk that those people won’t readily embrace what you have to say. But then, I am not the one who came up with the metaphor. The apostle Paul gave us this word picture in 1 Cor.9:23-27. As I’ve looked back on that day at Rice, I’ve often wondered, where else in my life could I pick up the pace? Where, in life, am I not living up to my full potential?
There are numerous stories, some fictitious and some well-documented, about people who have done “super-human” things in a time a crisis. One verifiable account was described by Jeff Wise in “The Science of Your Mind in Danger,” published by Palgrave Macmillan (the same people who publish Scientific American). The incident took place in Tucson in 2006 when Tom Boyle saw a cyclist being dragged underneath a car. When the driver, realizing he’d run over someone, stopped, Tom jumped out of his car and went to the aid of the young man pinned under the car. Single-handedly Tom lifted a 3,000 lb. Camaro long enough for someone to free the young man. Tom was a big guy, but he’d never dreamed of lifting that much weight in his life.
Vladimir Zatsiorsky, a professor of kinesiology at Penn State, says that an ordinary person in a training session can only summon about 65 percent of their absolute power (the force that our muscles are able to theoretically apply), while a trained athlete can exceed 80 percent. In competition, a trained athlete can improve as much as 12 percent above that figure. The difference is mostly mental. It is what I experienced at Rice when I heard that inner voice, and let go of whatever was holding me back to run with abandonment.
Proverbs 23:7 says that as a man thinks within himself, so he is. I wonder, how much we limit ourselves by wrong thinking? Now lest you think I am promoting an oversimplified worldview that says positive thoughts always create positive outcomes, let me assure that is not the case. However, there is substantive research supporting the correlation between a positive outlook and performance. And conversely, 60 to 90 percent of all doctor visits in America are attributed to stress-related (toxic thinking) illnesses and symptoms.
Wrong thinking can be so subtly pervasive that we don’t even recognize the toxic effect it is having in our life. It’s like the proverbial “frog in a kettle.” A frog is cold blooded. If you heat the water in the kettle, the frog can’t recognize the temperature change. That frog could actually boil to death without ever realizing the danger it is in. Like that frog, we may need an influence from outside of ourselves to lead us out of the danger of toxic thinking, and into the kind of thinking that allows us to reach our potential. The Word of God has the power to do just that.
In Romans 12:2, the Word of God clearly teaches that we are transformed by the renewing of our mind. That means we are changed as we replace old thinking with the new thinking that springs from, and is consistent with the truth of God’s word. That kind of change is usually a process more than an event. It comes as the result of regular, consistent time reading and studying the Word of God.
Dr. Lloyd M. Perry, professor of preaching and practical theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School says, “You are not what you think you are; but what you think, you are.” I take this to mean that just thinking we’re a different person won’t necessarily make you a different person, but thinking differently will inevitably make you a different person.
Jeff Wise begins his account of Tom Boyle’s story by sharing the following comment.
“Here’s how it is: one minute, you’re going through your daily routine, only half paying attention. And the next you’re sucked into a vivid, intense world, where time seems to move slower, colors are brighter, sounds more perceptible, as though the whole universe has suddenly come into focus.”
A vivid world where “colors are brighter, sounds more perceptible, as though the whole universe has suddenly come into focus” . . . Doesn’t that, to some degree, describe how we’d like to experience life on a regular basis. Ask God to show you where you might be limiting yourself and His purpose in your life by old thinking. Seek the transformation God has for you by renewing your mind with the truth of His Word (Rom. 12:2)!
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” – Phil. 4:13