I must have been 8 or 9 years old (maybe 10) when I first realized the Olympics were a thing. As always, once we discovered it, my brother and I had to imitate it. Completely mesmerized by the athletes we watched on TV the night before, the next day my brother, myself, and our next door neighbor would hold our own Olympics, running, jumping, swimming, or diving (okay cannon balling) in our back yard. We even made our own medals from construction paper to reward our athletic prowess. From the perspective of our above ground pool, we were the champions, the best of the best in summer sports.
It wasn’t until a few years later when I actually entered a swimming meet in a competition style pool that my delusions were blown away. As I floundered and flailed, eventually coming in last place, I quickly realized that there is a big difference between playing in an above ground pool and training for swimming competitions. Even though I’d been “in the water” for years, I hadn’t trained or learned the techniques’ of the other swimmers. On game day, it showed big time.
The other day as the Olympics came ‘round again, I was thinking about these memories. They brought to mind these words by the Apostle Paul:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last for ever.
Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.
No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
No athlete—professional or amateur---can win the prize without it.
As we watch the best athletes in the world compete this week at the Olympics, we’ll see montages of their lives, including the intense amount of training that each one put in on a consistent basis to build the strength, muscle memory and endurance needed to win the prize.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul takes this physical principle and demonstrates a necessary truth to our spiritual lives. Here it is:
The only way to win your spiritual race, to live a life of victory fulfilling God’s plan and purpose for your life, is to commit to training.
How do we train spiritually?
By consistently committing to the spiritual disciplines of:
Reading the Bible
Studying the Bible
Applying Biblical principles to our lives.
There is no way around it, just like a swimmer needs to spend hours in the pool, a runner spends hours on the track, if we want to be victorious Christians we need to commit to investing time with God and in His Word. Whether or not we are keeping this commitment makes all the difference in determining whether we are “playing church” or truly running the race God has for us.
One of the biggest lies that we’ve bought into in modern day Christianity is that we can maintain a healthy, thriving relationship with Jesus by praying while we’re doing other things. If we squeeze in a few minutes while we’re driving in the car or pray while we’re doing a chore, if we read a verse a day on our phone, we believe that’s all we need.
Please don’t think I’m saying it’s wrong to pray throughout the day. Quite the contrary, the Apostle Paul encourages us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “Pray continually.” However, what I’ve learned on my own spiritual journey is that if you are serious about passionately following Jesus, it’s going to take more than just a few minutes of prayer on the go here and there. Instead, you’re going to have to consciously schedule significant periods of consistent “training” time to be pray, read the Bible, and study the Bible.
I know, I know. We’re all busy.
Modern life is demanding and our days seem to fill up and time evaporates before we know it. Yet, there are times in life when you need to prioritize important things which may necessitate moving other things to the side.
I know that in my own life, it wasn’t until I made genuinely and consistently committed to these spiritual disciples that God was able to begin healing the issues in my heart, help me overcome generational iniquities and sins, change twisted thought patterns, and begin shaping me into the woman that He wanted me to be.
But these things didn’t happen magically or miraculously. They were the result of a commitment to spend time with Jesus and in His Word on a daily basis.
Usually, for me it meant setting aside a specific time during the day, going to my room, shutting the door, and entering into prayer. Obviously, for each person the time and place will be different because the schedules and demands of our lives are different.
What’s important is that you find a time that works for you. Just like we would look at our schedule before we’d set up a physical training routine and say, “This is when I can realistically make this commitment happen on a consistent basis”, we need to look at our schedule and say, “This is when I am going to schedule uninterrupted time with Jesus.”
Then block it on your calendar, your phone, however you track your time and commit to consistently keeping this appointment.
If you’re not sure how to start or you feel like you need some practical “coaching” on the spiritual disciplines, check out this series study on “Building Strength for the Journey” where we give practical, down-to-earth tips to help you incorporate spiritual disciplines into your personal life and start spiritually training today.
Today is the day to get off of the sidelines and start training for the life God has for you. I believe in you! You can do it! Start pursuing your God ordained life today---start training for victory!