One foot, then the other, is carefully clamped onto skis, ready to jump into action. Fingers grip and re-grip the ski poles. Determination in their eyes as they view the run from the mountaintop. A deep breath. At the electronic sound, the athletes shove off down the mountain.
Has the training paid off?
The Olympics have captivated our evenings for the last several weeks. The athletes have demonstrated focus and personal discipline to be able to compete on the world stage. Stories of determination against the odds, struggle over injuries, and passion for excellence capture my attention. So do the many race analogies in the Bible.
The apostle Paul writes in First Corinthians 9:24–27:
“Do you not know that in a race all 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 no last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
Paul knew that strict training was needed by athletes to compete in the games of his day: proper diet, adequate rest, accountability to coaching, and practice.
Those same disciplines help us grow as Christians.
Proper diet gives the athlete nutrients for strength for the body. Often they have strict diets with no junk food or empty calories or sugary drinks. Water is preferred. As Christ followers we need the proper diet of taking in the Word of God. Do you have a plan to read and study the Bible? Are you taking in the living water to keep from spiritual dehydration?
Rest is important is replenish the athlete’s body. Weary muscles need to rebuild. As Christians we can be guilty of pushing ourselves too much, not allowing time for rest. Yet this is one of the commands given by the Lord in both the Old and New Testaments. We lose perspective and strength without proper rest. Do you incorporate rest into your lifestyle?
An athlete also needs someone for accountability and coaching. Missing practices and not trying are unacceptable. The coach helps the athlete pursue the goal of competing for the prize. The coach guides and encourages, knowing that practice develops muscle memory. Likewise, as Christians we need to have people who help us learn the Word, learn to pray, and learn to serve. This happens in the context of the body of believers, the Church. Spiritual leaders such as pastors and mentors offer guidance for the everyday person to live out the Christian life.
And of course, there has to be practice. Effective practice. If it is done poorly, the end result will be less than desirable. In the Christian life, we live each day under the “coaching” of the Holy Spirit. The more we read the Word and pray, the stronger we become. We become in tune to the Spirit. We have to open our eyes to see where we need to extend grace and serve others.
The Olympic athletes train long and hard. But the anticipated competition is soon over. Some win the prize; most others do not. Even if they stand on the victor’s podium with a medal around their neck, the glory is fleeting. The victory is soon a memory.
We need to train for the Christian life as if it were a marathon. It continues throughout our days; sometimes we struggle, sometimes we win. Regardless, our eyes must be on the prize of heaven. That is a prize that is everlasting, won’t tarnish or fade. As the apostle James declared, we train for a crown that will last forever.
How are you training for the race of faith?