This is a great saying, hitting the ground running, as it gives a great visual picture. We’re falling a short distance, our legs are churning like some cartoon character’s, and as soon as one of our feet touches down on the ground, we’re off like a rocket. Sounds great in theory, but as the folks on the show Mythbusters proved, it fails in practice. Actually what they showed was the vast majority of the time you will do worse than if you had simply took off from a dead stop on the ground. And as I think about that, it makes me realize that we sometimes do the same thing with respect to what we think God is about. For instance:
From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.”
But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
– Matthew 16:21-23, NASB
In hindsight we understand why Peter was wrong. Jesus had to go the Cross. Jesus had to give His life as a sacrifice for our sins, or there was no redemption, forgiveness, and salvation for us. But from Peter’s perspective at that time, what Christ was saying to him didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Peter was guilty of hitting the ground running. He saw Christ being around for a good while, that teacher and mentor he could rely on for many years, and Jesus was saying something very different. While Peter thought he was getting a fast start on the future, had it worked out Peter’s way, he would have actually slowed himself greatly, if not cost himself dearly. Of course, Jesus had to straighten Peter out. Peter was focused on Peter and the guys. He didn’t have the big picture view that Jesus did, one where salvation would be offered to many more.
It is important for us to be open to the words of God and really be listening for His direction. It’s also important for us to be ready to go when we’re called. However, we’ve got to make sure that we don’t get started on something before we really know what it is we’re supposed to be doing. Peter jumped the situation with Jesus because he didn’t understand what he needed to in order to see that Jesus’ death was necessary. It’s easy to be like Peter. We get some of what we need to do and we take off. We want to hit the ground running. And we will, only we’ll do so in a way similar to what the Mythbusters saw, we’ll land awkwardly, with our momentum often in the wrong direction, and we’ll be slower than if we had just waited and gotten set for when we had the details we needed.
So as we start the new year, let’s do so wisely. Let’s make sure we clearly understand God’s call on our lives. Let’s be positive we know what it is He is calling us to do next. We don’t have to see the whole plan. But we do have to clearly see the next step. That’s good enough. But we must be sure we don’t take that step before seeing what it is we’re supposed to be doing. Let’s not hit the ground running. Rather, let’s take off from a state of preparedness, like a runner starting a race.