Warm Up: Matthew 16: 24, Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."
Stretching: Read John 6: 1-29
Run: My son’s cross country coach always told the kids that ‘running wasn’t just for sport, it was for life’. Anyone who runs regularly knows how true this is. I’ve been running for almost forty years of my life. I’m not always in training, but I run to stay fit. Sometimes, I run to familiarize myself with a new area that I’m visiting. Sometimes I run to relieve stress. And sometimes I run because I actually like to be outside running! Sometimes I even run to get somewhere else! I don’t need a lot of expensive equipment and I don’t have to put a team together or follow a training schedule. I don’t have to find facilities, either. I can just run. I’ve been to so many different places and have always found places to run; trails, roads, paths, open fields, streets, tracks, treadmills, etc. As long as my body permits, I’ll be able to run. It really is more than a sport; running is for life. Christianity is like this too. You’re not a Christian for a season. You don’t sign up to train so that you get something from God or get through something with the help of the Holy Spirit and then drop out. Obviously, some people do this for a variety of reasons, but this isn’t God’s plan. Following Jesus requires that you count the cost and die to self. Being “in Christ” leaves no room for selfish ambition. It is laying down the life you have known and picking up your cross every day. It requires strict training. Perhaps, this is why some people are afraid to follow Christ. They don’t want to give up the life they have and the idea of commitment scares them away even more. Who wants to commit to running for the rest of your life?
In today’s story, Jesus had just fed a multitude with a small portion of food. Given the other miraculous signs and the wonders that had followed his ministry, the people sought him out and desired to make him their king. Everyone wanted to jump on the Jesus bandwagon. But Jesus was quick to make a point that it’s not all fun and games. He reminded them that they would have to eat his flesh and drink his blood if they desired to be his followers. In other words, there is a cost to following Christ. Runners know a little something about the cost; cost in terms of time, money, aching bones, sore muscles and the list could go on and on. But who would trade that for the rewards we get from running? Those who have followed Christ know the same. The cost of following Jesus is nothing compared to the rewards of a life lived as his follower.
Cool Down: “Lord, you made it clear that anyone who follows you is not in it for the glory, but for your glory. Many flocked to you at your triumphal entry, but fled from you when you were hanging on a cross. I say that I’ll never deny you and then run at the slightest persecution. Lord, I want to be ‘in you’ as you created me to be. Help me to put away my self and lay down all the pain that goes along with trying to manage my life. Let me gain what you offer in return; Peace and Hope. In Jesus’ name, Amen