This story appears in FCA Magazine's June/July 2018 issue.
“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
In Greek mythology, one quality of a hero is having “strength for two.” In other words, to be heroic, you not only had to thrive on your own, but you also had to help someone else thrive. When we envision superheroes today, we’re often drawn to both their physical strength as well as their moral strength to come to the aid of those in need.
Over the past several years, Spartan Racing has become part of my DNA. I love the electric atmosphere before each race, but what inspires me the most is witnessing those who are strong helping those who are struggling. Shouting words of encouragement is common in many non-Spartan races, but I’ve seen racers literally carrying other competitors, bearing their burdens, pitching in and paying someone’s “burpee penalty,” sometimes even hoisting them over a 10-foot wall.
The longer races (the Super and the Beast) have tested every bit of my physical, mental, spiritual and emotional strength. And I’ve been on the receiving end of borrowing someone else’s strength. I thank God every time for those people; it’s truly the best example I’ve seen of the “strength for two” principle. And, it’s one of the main reasons I exercise regularly.
Having spent nearly 20 years in the health and fitness industry, I’ve met folks who exercise for all kinds of reasons. Some are recovering from surgery. Others do it because doctors told them they’d have serious health issues if they didn’t. Some are trying to get bigger, faster and stronger so they can make a team. Still others do it simply to look good.
But I’ve met very few, if any, who say they’re training “to be ready.”
“Ready for what?” you might be asking. Well, ready for the challenges of every day. Ready to help someone who might need it. Ready in case of an emergency. Ready for life.
Abraham Lincoln once famously said, “Today I prepare, because one day my time will come.” Lincoln lived with a sense of purpose. In the end, he not only had “strength for two”—he had strength for an entire nation.
The challenge for all of us is, will we have the “strength for two?” What are we willing to do to get ready? What am I personally willing to go through to ensure I’ll be strong enough in mind, body and spirit to actually help others when the time comes?
I love how the Apostle Paul frequently used competitive comparisons to describe the journey of life, like in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27: “... So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should...”
Applying that to your life and training, here are three keys to developing “strength for two.”
1. Push beyond your normal limits. At some point, to increase your strength, you have to take on more than you can currently handle. To gain muscle, you have to lift heavier weights. To grow in faith, you have to step outside your comfort zone. To grow in empathy, you have to step inside another person’s shoes. If it doesn’t challenge you, it will never change you.
2. See pain as your friend. We all have to stop seeing pain as something to be avoided, and instead start using it to our advantage. God promises to use trials to refine us and mature us if we let Him. To grow, you need to depend on the strength of God in your weakness. To become more compassionate, you have to let God use your pain as a blessing to others in pain. God only allows pain so you will develop “strength for two.”
3. Face your fears. We have two choices when dealing with fear: We can “Forget Everything And Run,” or we can “Face Everything And Rise.” Scripture encourages us to take a stand, to be strong and courageous. “If God is for us,” we read in Romans 8:31, “who can ever be against us?” We have nothing to fear because the Lord our God is with us wherever we go. Courage isn’t the absence of fear; it’s taking action in spite of it. When we build a habit of facing our fears, we become armed with “strength for two.”
We are in desperate need of heroes today. Heroes who have “strength for two.” We need people who are morally strong, unwilling to cut corners or compromise. We need people who are physically strong enough to help others in need. And we need people who are emotionally strong enough to refresh and encourage those who are down and out.
So, be strong and courageous! It’s time to develop the “strength for two.”
Simple Steps for Strength
1. What’s one thing you will do right now to push beyond your limits in mind, body and spirit?
2. What pain are you going through that you can let God turn into strength?
3. What’s one fear you can face right now to build confidence in God?