Seven years ago, at the age of thirty-three, Steve Way was way over weight, drinking way too much and smoking twenty cigarettes every day. Yesterday (Sunday 27th July, 2014), he came in tenth in the Commonwealth Games marathon.
Way has no background in sport. He was no athlete in his school days. According to the BBC’s coverage of this remarkable story, his vices were beginning to take a toll on his health. Nights spent coughing, depriving him of sleep, were the result of too many cigarettes. He says that one day he looked in the mirror and decided he needed to have a radical change of life.
How did Steve Way bring about such a transformation? A number of factors stand out.
Firstly there was that moment of realisation, the realisation that it was a case of change or let your life go further down hill.
Then there was the discipline of taking up running. He gave himself to this with a real intensity, which is obvious from what he has achieved. Such was his commitment to his new life style that he left a well paid job in IT and took up a lesser paid job working in a bank – just so that he could devote more time to running.
His progress was not without setbacks. He had tried running eighteen months earlier and completed the London Marathon, but then gave it up and went back to his old lifestyle. Even though he gave in, he didn’t give up.
His new passion affected his social life. Even though he managed to maintain his friendship with those who had been drinking buddies, they initially struggled with the disruption that Way’s change of life brought to their relationship.
There is so much in this story that is directly applicable to anyone who is serious about change in their life or their lifestyle. And so much that applies to anyone who is serious about following Jesus.
There is the moment of realisation. The realisation that if we continue to do the same things we will attain the same results. That realisation can come in many ways. Through self reflection. Through conversations. Through prayer. Through the Bible. Does it not say in the book of James that when we read the Bible it is like looking in the mirror? (James 1.22-25)
Setbacks are always part of progress. The temptation to give in can prove too easy an option to resist, but if we give in without giving up, we can be sure that according to Psalm 37.23-24 the Lord is there to pick us up again.
Being willing to make sacrifices to ensure our progress is all part and parcel of change. It might not mean taking a job that does not pay as well, as it did for Steve Way, but discipleship always entails sacrifice. Jesus calls it taking up the cross.
And of course our friends, sometimes even our families, do not understand what is happening when we begin to respond to what the Holy Spirit is doing in our hearts.
Perhaps the most important element in all of this, the key to it all is developing inner passion. These are Steve Way’s own words:
“In order to bury your vices you need to find an equal and opposite addiction. You need to find a passion.”
A great Scottish preacher from a bygone era, Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), once preached a sermon entitled The Expulsive Power of a New Affection. He argued that that if we wanted to overcome sin, developing our passion for God was more effective – and important – than trying to stop loving the particular sin.
Developing a love for God and a vision for the life He has planned for you is far more effective and exciting than settling for a deep dislike of the things that are holding you back.
For years Steve Way sat on his couch slowly destroying his life, yet all the time a first class athlete was locked up inside of him.
God has put far more inside of you than you could ever imagine. Once you begin to grasp even a little bit of that you’ll never be able to settle for the couch again.