In preparation for a major event, athletes go into training camp. To perform at the highest level and produce good outcomes, training is mandatory. Likewise, the Bible asks us to train for godliness without which an abundant Christian life is not possible.
7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1Timothy 4)
A training camp consists of both general and specific aspects. General aspects are important to ensure that the athlete is well conditioned and has an optimal level of fitness to succeed. Specific aspects related to the game being played or the opponent being faced, are crucial to achieve victory.
The most basic aspect of general training is nutrition. Watching what you eat is important. A few weeks ago, I came across a picture of a python in one of the national parks in South Africa that had swallowed a porcupine——and ended up dead. Bad choice of a meal! What you eat can kill you. Conversely good diet ensures that we remain healthy and strong. A Christian needs a diet of God’s word on a regular basis- a daily quiet time, a weekly listening to God’s word at a place of worship and a disciplined study of God’s word. When God’s word is not taken in, the Christian becomes malnourished and weak. Struggles follow and he sets himself up for failure.
Denial is a crucial part of general training. There are days when the athlete does not feel like waking up at 4 am and going for his morning run. There are times when he would rather slouch in a couch and watch the movie rather than hone his skills. On a constant basis, the athlete needs to deny himself anything that can detract him from the ultimate goal- that of doing well and winning the prize on the sports arena. Paul captures this imagery in 1 Corinthians 9-
25 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 forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
General training also involves conditioning, strength training and building stamina. Surrounding yourself with godly people through Christian fellowship and allowing godly input, conditions you to be in tune with the eternal. Building a life of faith, learning to depend on God and trusting him for your needs is what enables a Christian to have the high levels of strength required to perform well on the sports field. Setting you eyes on the hope you have in Christ is what brings perseverance and stamina required to run the Christian race and not give up despite the struggles that come your way.
Specific aspects of training involve recognizing and utilizing your strengths and also recognizing how your enemy, the devil works his schemes. In Ephesians 6, we read about the armor of God- specific weapons that a Christian needs to utilize to stand his ground on the day of evil. The Bible instructs us on the schemes of the devil and we would do well to take heed. The ‘Screwtape letters’ is a classic by C S Lewis in which the elder demon Screwtape, advises a young demon Wormwood on the art of tempting a Christian. At one point he says,
“A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all—and more amusing.”
In a world where an abundance of worldliness and moderated religion has made it hard for a Christian to pursue the path of holiness, training for godliness has never been more important.
- AN UNBELIEVING GENERATION
- THE WISE AND THE FOOLISH