“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it.1 Timothy 4:8-9 NLT
There are three phases of becoming competent at any task or endeavor: preparation, training and execution. There are three interconnected aspects through which we experience life: spiritual, mental and physical.
The above Scripture quote speaks to the benefits of physical training of the body. We all know, and scientific observation confirms, that exercise does a body good. There is no shortage of products, locations, trainers, techniques and encouragement to work up a sweat for the betterment of your physical condition. But what about your spiritual condition?
The Apostle Paul takes a worldly example and explains how much better than that spiritual training is for the soul. You see, no matter how much you exercise or how healthy your diet, your body will eventually wear out, break down and die, freeing your soul from its carnal confines.
Paul also compares the spiritual life to running a race. Not a sprint, but a marathon. How does one compete in and hope to finish a marathon? Do you just wake up one day, put on your shoes and start running?
Of course not. You go through the steps of preparation, training and execution. You prepare mentally by counting the cost. You research and plan your training regiment. You make sacrifices in some areas to free up the time you’ll need for training your body to go the distance.
Then you train. Day in, day out, week after week, month after month. Then, after much preparation and training, you’re ready to run an endurance race.
That’s the execution phase of pursuing your goal. You’ll never finish if you don’t take that first step. You have to compete if you hope to win. When you get tired and experience pain and adversity, you push through. You tap your mental reserves of determination and grit to push your body past the comfort zone and onward to victory.
That’s running a race. Living a life of faith is no different. Our goal is Christlikeness. The Good News is that Jesus already did the preparation for us. He made a way where there was no way. He prepared the road ahead of us and leads the way. He invites us to, “Follow Me.”
To trust Jesus means to follow Jesus. There is a ready road waiting for us to walk by the Spirit that leads to eternal life. Walking this road means abundant life now and for eternity. The abundance is the fruit of the Spirit, a bumper crop of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Imagine running that race, matching Jesus stride for stride, and every drop of sweat waters the seeds in the earth that sprout up with the fruit of the Spirit. Your exercising of your faith yields a bountiful crop of blessings for the whole world to see. Stay in the race, it’s worth it.
Since Jesus has already done the hard work of preparation for us to enter the race, we only have two responsibilities: renewing our mind and walking in obedience.
Here again, we see the three aspects of human life operating in unity.
Spiritually, we believe that Jesus is Lord and enter into eternal life. We use our mental faculties to renew our minds with the Word of God and erase the deceitful lies of worldliness.
Then, we put our faith into action by using our bodies to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We go into the world and touch it with outstretched arms as ambassadors of Christ. We declare the truth of the Gospel and demonstrate the power of the Kingdom by healing the sick and casting out demons. And in obedience to Christ’s teachings, we invite others to join the holy race.
It does no good to simply hear the Word of God. All preparation and no training is going to accomplish nothing. And how can you do the Word without first being trained to do so competently?
God beckons us to join Him in the ultimate expression of life. Grab a buddy and put on the shoes of the preparation of the Gospel. You’ll never grow if you don’t leave your comfort zone. A ready road awaits. Will you run the race of endurance? A crown awaits those that finish without losing the faith. A crown of life, prepared for those who walk by faith and not by sight.
God, give us a vision of the road You’ve called us to walk. Thank You for preparing the way for us to enter into eternal life by Your blood shed on a cross. Give us holy desires to read, study and meditate upon Your Word. Strengthen us by the Spirit to walk the road before us in faith and humility. Give us confidence that with You, nothing is impossible. Give us ears to hear what Your Spirit is saying and hearts that are quick to obey. Bless Your Holy Name. Amen.