Press Toward the Mark: Training Your Heart in Godliness

Press Toward the Mark: Training Your Heart in Godliness

by Kathy Johnston, Jerusha Clark

Do you want to "get off the bench" and experience a deeper walk with God? Author Kathy Johnston reveals the disciplines and strategies used in athletic training—disciplines that are also necessary elements of spiritual growth.  See more details below


Do you want to "get off the bench" and experience a deeper walk with God? Author Kathy Johnston reveals the disciplines and strategies used in athletic training—disciplines that are also necessary elements of spiritual growth.

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Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date:
Designed for Influence Series
Product dimensions:
5.55(w) x 8.51(h) x 0.25(d)

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Copyright © 2002 Kathy Johnston
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-57683-308-9

Chapter One



Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

* * *

Life had dealt Wilma Rudolph some hard blows. Her premature birth left her vulnerable to double pneumonia and scarlet fever. An attack of polio crippled not only her leg, but also her hope of ever walking normally again. Still she dreamed of becoming a world-class athlete. Her dream motivated her to overcome all obstacles-not just to walk without a clumsy metal brace, but also to undergo grueling training that eventually earned her a spot in the 1960 Olympics. Wilma made a choice-one that involved her total commitment. This inner resolve helped her become the first woman athlete to win three track and field gold medals.

Lorraine Borman, a figure-skating coach for several gold medalists, expressed what it takes to get to the Olympics: "Above all, an athlete has to make a total commitment. I've had lots of skaters who had complete physical talent, but who didn't make the mental effort. They wouldn't make it!"

Just as Wilma displayed unusual determination motivated by her dream, so we as Christians must make a conscious choice to rise above mediocrity and become more than pew-sitters. Following Christ involves paying a price, but Scripture teaches that it's even more costly to remain aloof because "those who try to make their life secure will lose it" (Luke 17:33, NRSV). Christianity is not a spectator sport! God Himself will give us the motivation we need to "run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1).

1. Look up motivation in a dictionary and write a short definition in your own words.

2. What would motivate an athlete to run a race, join a league, or enter a tournament?

3. If your interests lie in art, music, crafts, cars, computers, or other areas, what has motivated you to get involved in these areas?

4. Gordon Thiessen wrote, "Coaches point out that the difference between the star and the superstar is not talent, but motivation. One is willing to pay the price and the other isn't." Do you think this is true in the Christian life? Explain.

5. Christ challenged His followers to deny themselves and take up their cross (Mark 8:34). What do you think He meant when He told them to deny themselves?

a. Ignore their own longings and cater to the demands of others.

b. Ignore their own needs and tolerate any harsh treatment that God allows into their lives.

c. Govern and limit their own desires so they'll have time and energy for God's agenda.

d. Other:

6. What do you think Christ meant when He told them to take up their cross?

a. Never protest bad treatment. b. Be willing to die for what they believe in.

c. Pursue the spreading of God's truth, even if others respond with violence.

d. Other:

7. What would it look like for you to deny yourself and take up your cross this week?

Some of us may be on Christ's team, but we're still on the bench. If we think we're just second-string, normal, everyday nobodies with not much to offer, the author of Fit for Life has advice for us: The fact of the matter is, God rarely chooses "winners" to do his work. In fact, he seems to choose the more unlikely people available: a dried up old man and a woman past menopause to start a new nation (Genesis 18), an untrained shepherd boy to take on the champion of the Philistine army (1 Samuel 17), and a timid, young virgin to give birth to the Savior of the world (Matthew 1). God doesn't require talent, strength, good looks, popularity. All he requires is a willing heart.

8. How do you respond to the above quotation? (Does it encourage you? Seem irrelevant to you?...)

9. Motivations for us to commit our lives to God are listed in the chart below. Look up the passages and complete the chart.

Passage/Motivation How can this motivate us?

Romans 12:1 Mercies of God

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Our bodies belong to God

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 Eternal rewards

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 Christ's love

10. Grace motivated and empowered the apostle Paul to become all he could be for God. Look up 1 Corinthians 15:9-10 and write it in your own words.

11. Maybe you don't feel ready to go all out for God. If you don't, write or talk about what leads you to prefer a slower pace.


Grace is the root from which gratitude grows. When we grasp all that God has done for us, our hearts respond freely. Running the race is not something we "have to do." It becomes the desire of our heart! Hebrews 12:1 encourages us to throw off weights that may hinder us. Are there areas in your life that you want to lay aside so you can run the race better? Explain.


Use the space below to complete a Verse Analysis Bible Study of the key verse for this session. Detailed instructions on how to do verse analysis are found in the appendix.

Hebrews 12:1

A. Read the context before and summarize it (Hebrews 11).

B. Read the context after and summarize it (Hebrews 12:2-3).

C. Paraphrase the verse.

D. Write out questions or problems you may have from this passage.





E. Look up and comment on cross references that give you further insight on this passage.

1. 2. 3. 4.

F. What application would you like to make from this study?


Excerpted from PRESS TOWARD THE MARK by KATHY JOHNSTON Copyright © 2002 by Kathy Johnston. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

KATHY JOHNSTON enjoys athletics and hopes to still be on the tennis court when she's 80! She and her husband, Charlie, currently are on staff with The Navigators in Omaha, Nebraska. Kathy devotes most of her time to leading small-group Bible studies and mentoring women. A speaker at weekend retreats and special events for women, she has coauthored Facing Choices and has written articles for Discipleship Journal and other periodicals.

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