Thankfullness brings Increase

by, Ryan Hall

Today I am writing from our home in Flagstaff, Arizona. We have been having a warm winter, and training on dirt roads at 7,000 ft in the warm sun is a runners paradise considering it’s January. My heart goes out to the East coasters that haven’t had the same glorious conditions.

My training has been progressing since my hip injury’s resolution. I shaved my 3 month old beard off on News Day as part of a declaration of 2014 being a new year for me. I also set a goal of being healthy to run every day in 2014, which so far I have been able to keep. I think this maybe be the longest I’ve kept a New Year’s Resolution!

Recently I was in middle of my first workout since coming to altitude (10 by 1,000 meters w/2 minutes rest) and was having a humbling experience. It was one of those workouts that mentally go either way. I had a choice. Depending on my perspective the workout was either going to get real bad, real quick or I could choose the hard path (mentally speaking) and see the good in the midst of my suffering and get through the workout.  While I was mentally coaching myself through this tough session I began thinking about what gives people the power to conquer tough circumstances in life. I began to think of tough situations that Jesus faced and how He worked through them.

One story that came to mind when I thought of Jesus overcoming was the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fish.  Jesus found himself in the middle of desert with thousands of people who had walked miles and miles just be with him and they were out of food, except 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.

Now, I’ve heard this story many times and it’s easy to just gloss over it without realizing how dire of a situation this was.  This was a potential life and death situation for thousands of people.  So how did Jesus overcome it?  He fixed his eyes on God and gave thanks for what He had.  To me, it didn’t seem like Jesus spent too much time focused on the great challenge that surrounded him.  He found a way, in the midst of his circumstances, to set his focus on the one person who nothing is impossible for.  Then he took what God had already given Him and thanked Him for it.  The interesting thing is that He didn’t even ask God to multiply the loaves or fish.  How crazy is that?!  He didn’t even ask for a miracle.  He just started handing out food and He so knew that God would give him everything that he needed for that situation that he didn’t even have to ask God for it.  And, so the story goes that not only did God give enough food for everyone to eat their full, but He gave them a surplus, an overflow.

There are two simple truths here that helped me get through my challenging workout.  First, I set my focus on God, not on my watch, not on my splits, not on comparing my workouts to anyone else’s workout or any of my past workouts, I set my focus on God.  When I do this, running becomes an act of worship to God and no longer about me and my fitness.  Then I give God thanks for the energy and healthy body He was giving me for that workout.

The funny thing is that this time, there wasn’t, what an outsider would call, a miraculous turnaround to my workout (though I have experienced miracles).  I didn’t all of a sudden start crushing it.  However, I did find that with this new spirit of God-centered thankfulness, my body relaxed and I did start running faster and managed to accomplish what is always my number one goal for any race or workout: to maximize my potential for that day.  I can’t always have a PR race or a PR workout but I can alway get 100% out of my body what it has inside of it for each day.

I cringe to think what could have happened if I didn’t turn my bad attitude around and  I am thankful that Jesus modeled to me how to get through tough times- by being thankful for what you have in the moment.

28 COMMENTS

  • Reply
    Suresh koneswaran

    What a fresh and thought-provoking perspective on a well known story! i’m studying the books of matthew and romans right now, and god has been teaching me the very same thing: stay focused on him, not on my circumstances. i’m reminded of how when peter fixed his eyes on jesus, he was able to accomplish the supernatural and walk on water. i’m reminded (and encouraged) to fix my eyes on him, on our savior who is constantly interceding for us (Romans 8:34)!

  • Reply
    Randy Thomas

    Flat out awesomE! Jesus is lord and he is amazing. Meditate on this, if led: it is no longer I who runs, but Christ who runs within me! Galatians 2:20

  • Reply
    Mark

    Ryan, your dedication to your sport, your family and evangelism is wonderful. good luck to you and sara in 2014.

  • Reply
    jENNIFER

    Praise the lord to see an example of how to run for his glory. I am so incredibly thankful for you and Sara every day. May more believers use their gift of running to “feel His pleasure,” as Eric liddell once said and to spread the gospel of jesus christ. I am constantly reminded of you guys as i strive to find the balance of living my entire being for jesus with working hard to become a better runner. Jesus’ example is the ultimate one to follow, and i am equally thankful as well.

  • Reply
    Dana weber

    Thank you for sharing and being a great example! we can all experience god more when we stop thinking about ourselves so much and focus more on him. it’s a focus we have to continually renew, and i’ve slowly been learning and experiencing this myself trough endurance mountain bike racing.

  • Reply
    patrick voo

    hey ryan – what a great reflection! it’s always invigorating to discover new ways of seeing the timeless scriptures, and understanding that there are layers upon layers of truth embedded in them that sometimes act like time-release capsules … applying themselves in fresh ways on different days.

    still rooting hard for you, and hoping you can see that new year’s resolution through!

  • Reply
    David Stewart

    Great message Ryan, struggling through revision for university right now and your point about focusing on god is crucial for me given that i don’t get any joy out of my course. remembering that i’m doing this for his glory more that my personal, transient happiness.

  • Reply
    Mike Gagliano

    Inspiring stuff – keep it up

  • Reply
    Tim Phillips

    GOOD perspective! I’ve been running probably twice as long as you, but my brain never had the wherewithal to extrapolate scripture! it’s usually, dear lord, help me not to hurt myself!

  • Reply
    Gabriel Higgins

    This is extremely encouraging to read, especially as someone who runs at the college level. It is really easy to get caught up in comparing myself to other runners and how other people on my team are doing during workouts. It’s really comforting to know that all God wants is my best. Thank you for posting again!

  • Reply
    SHAWN WILER

    THIS IS something that I def. needed to read. Being the top runner at my college and having a bad injury in my hip, that put me on crutches for the next 3 months, has been very frustrating. I have been so worried about what those around me might think and just getting so worried about letting down my teammates and the kids I coach, instead of realizing that God has big planes for me, and he is just saving me for them down the road. He has given me a sense of peace that everything will turn out fine in the end. This is a reminder, that no matter what the trails are that we may face, that if we put our focus on our God, we can accomplishing anything.

  • Reply
    Melissa mead

    Thank you for writing, Ryan. I really needed this today. sometimes we forget that what’s important is simply to be thankful for what we have in the moment, and trust that god has more in store for us than we even know 🙂

  • Reply
    Hannah Lawrence

    Comment
    Thank you so much for your courage in sharing your faith. I used to run for westerN state And have really loved seeing both you and Sarah’s amazing running achievements!
    You have no idea What perfect timing your post Was, I Am Now racing back in new zealand as a pro triathlete and after a Frustrating race last Sunday I have been really struggling mentallY. The reminder of been thankful in prayer first and just trusting in Gods power and timing as a means of turning my attItude around is a really good reminder, along with the focus on been the best we can be for God, not how good we are compared to other athletes. Thank you.

  • Reply
    kelley spencer sr

    i admire your devotion to Jesus in all you do,, iv seen the criticism lodged against you for putting christ first in running and racing,, be encouraged in the face of adversity

  • Reply
    Ricky Farmer

    ryan – Thank you for your boldness to share your faith in Christ! i will continually pray for you, your family, and your career.

  • Reply
    Alex steward

    Thanks so much for this reminder of grace. In jesus all challenges are erased and WE ARE LEFT WITH NOTHING BUT GRACE UPON GRACE. MAY YOU CONTINUE TO EXPERIENCE THIS AS YOU GET STRONGER AND PREPARE FOR YOUR NEXT RACE.

  • Reply
    Sonja Timmer

    This is my first time reading your blog, and i have to say it was very refreshing to read a god centered post about running 🙂 Thanks for the perspective!

  • Reply
    Tod huston

    Ryan, thanks so much for this post. The lord always knows what we need. My daughter, who is a junior in high school and plays soccer just Suffered a complete acl tear last weeK. She is scared about being able to come back from the INJURY And DISAPPOINTED about missing our on the remAinder of her indoor season and all of her spring outdoor one. We are praying for the grace to trust that god is teaching us something THROUGH this and asking for PERSEVERANCE to preSs on. Thanks for the encouraging reminder about keeping our gaze fixed on him and remAining thankful even in the Trial

  • Reply
    Laura Olinger

    when i injured my hip this past summer, it was tempting to be angry and confused why god would let that happen to me, but the more i prayed, the more i realized that he was also healing me, and reminding me that my body is a gift that should be used for praise, not my glory. I’m now able to run again and enjoy creation and am so thankful.

  • Reply
    Al Frederick

    ‘thank you’ for sharing. it is by far, the ‘best’ blog I have read. it is easy to get caught up in the world and forget who our source is of ‘everything’ we have and will become; Romans 12:2 – “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
    Blessings in all things.

  • Reply
    Aaron Harmon

    I just finished a hard workout and was complaining about the horrible weather we’ve been having. In my running I never stopped to think about the things I should be grateful for and instead focused on how frustrating the run was. I’ll have to remember that tomorrow when I head out. Thanks for posting this!

  • Reply
    Josh R

    Ryan,
    Thanks for this! I’ve been fighting the liar for months as i’m trying to learn a new language in a new culture. being so far from family and close friends, i have my family (my wife and 3 kids) to cling to. But, it’s lonely, difficult, and frustrating! I needed that truth to focus on Jesus, not language or “where I think I should be” or comparing myself to others. He will give me the language to speak when sharing His hope to these beautiful people.
    Thanks for the “marathon Training” Ryan… it’s awesome to work along side of you even though we are far apart, for his kingdom!

  • Reply
    amy

    ok seriously.. thanks for this. I am not a runner.. but i do have my own race i am running. I don’t read you often.. but this ‘happened’ to pop up. Focus on Jesus.. Focus on Jesus. thanks. (ps.. can you increase your type font??? LOL.)

  • Reply
    Eleni barbetsea

    Comment

    Hi Ryan,
    thank you for sharing with the world these intimate & special spiritual experiences you have through your running life. i can relate to them 100%, so much so, that as my partner franc (a runner too, who forwarded this link to me) said it felt as almost he was reading my own log entries. i cried when reading the contents of your entry. I was overwhelmed with the feeling of god been there at all times for us all, we only have to believe and allow ‘him’ to be there for us. then it all evolves. you are right, in that it is not about clock, speed, racing etc it is about giving back, thanking and be grateful to the supreme and go from there. today, the day here in south west scotland is ‘wild’, very windy with much heavy rain and cold but among all this there is only the sun and I want, and going to get out there and run and run like never before, run with god and focus on what matters. And I shall. thank you for sharing and wish that 2014 gives to you and your family , health, fitness, peace, love and happiness and many more 1000’s of meaningful running miles. Eleni ( a greek runner living in scotland).

  • Reply
    Katie

    Went to FCA college retreat this weekend and we were challenged to find one word that would help us grow in faith for the year if 2014. The word I chose was Focus because of Hebrews 12:1-2. Just like in a tempo workout for me, if I fix my gaze on the runner in front of me and focus on moving forward rather than anything around me or my splits, I will run more to my potential. Life is the same way. Fix our gaze on the Author and Perfector of our faith and run the race that is set before us.

  • Reply
    John R

    Ryan,,
    I find it interesting that when i am searching for an answer, the lord directs me to it. This blog is exactly the answer i needed.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Reply
    DAVE pREVISH

    rYAN,

    I’ve Prayed for you on my runs many times. He has great plans for your future and when He is getting the glory amazing things seem to happen. As John Piper says the chief end of man is to glorify god and we are most satisfied in Him when we do that!

  • Reply
    DAVE yOUNG

    Comment
    RYAN,
    i ACTUALLY LEFT A COMMENT, RESPONDING TO SARA’S ENCOURAGING WORDS. wHILE RUNNING TODAY IN THE UPSTATE OF s.c. , YOU CAME TO MIND, THINKING OF YOUR OLYMPIC SETBACK, AND SIMPLY WONDERED HOW YOU WERE DOING. i AM VERY ENCOURAGED BY YOUR PERSPECTIVE, WHICH COMES FROM THE hOLY SPIRIT. tHANKFUL HOW GOD IS RULING IN YOUR HEART AND MIND AND TRUSTING GOD TO CONTINUE TO HEAL, ENCOURAGE AND LIFT YOU IN YOUR PURSUITS, jESUS’ NAME.
    DAVE yOUNG- ( hEBREWS 12: 12 AND 13).

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