For some things there are just no short cuts! In the instant society that we live in it’s so important to remember that many weeks, even years go into training to be a successful athlete. The actual competition or test of endurance, however, is often only a matter of a few minutes or perhaps even seconds. For the Iron Man it takes huge resolve over many hours.
Jesus Christ spent many years in a carpenter’s shop away from any kind of public life. When he began his public ministry he was around the age of 30 and it only lasted for three years. This is a serious commitment to preparation!
Consider the length of time Noah spent building the ark to keep him and his family safe for several months during the flood.
Let us not be guilty of taking this time of preparation lightly. God is currently at work in us, preparing us for the days that lie ahead. God is patient and busy working and shaping our character into the likeness of Christ.
Part of God’s training or discipling each of us is that we become mature in our faith. Before we can compete we must become “established”, “grounded and steady, “rooted, built up and established” according to 1 Thessalonians 3:13 (ESV); 2 Thessalonians 2:17 (ESV) and Colossians 1:22, 23 (The Message); Colossians 2:7 (ESV). This time of preparation helps to condition and strengthen our spiritual muscles. The phrase in Hebrews 5:14: “who by constant use have trained themselves” (NIV) makes me think of constant practice, exercise or training and that’s exactly what each of these Iron Man athletes do – the amateurs as well as the professionals.
In order to enter the race, or even qualify as a contestant, they have to push aside anything that might distract them from their training programme. Families have to make sacrifices to help their loved one have the time and freedom to prepare and equip themselves for the challenge.
Paul encourages and challenges us in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27: “24 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. 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 someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 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.”(NIV)
Questions for reflection:
How is your race? Are you aware you are in a race?
How are you training to prepare yourself for the race ahead?
Are you perhaps tired and thinking of quitting?
Hebrews 12:1 exhorts us: “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run … the race marked out for us.” (NIV)
More questions for reflection:Paul said “As I have said before, the Christian position is this: I may do anything, but everything is not useful. Yes, I may do anything but everything is not constructive.” (1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23; JB Phillips)
Are you accountable to anyone?
Are you aware of things in your life that are not constructive? What are you doing about them?
What cycles tend to repeat in your life? Perhaps a habit, the way you spend your money, perhaps your time management… what needs to change? What do you need to do change this?
Are there areas in your life that show signs of a lack of discipline?
Hebrews 12:11-12; says: “11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 12Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.”
Athletes have to obey the rules of the competition to avoid disqualification or expulsion. In God’s kingdom, we need to obey certain laws and guidelines too.
“16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:16-18; ESV)