The summer Olympics begin one month from today in Rio. Athletes around the world are preparing for the biggest event of their lives, hopefully resulting in winning an Olympic medal. As I read an NBC report about their final month of training, the headline of the article was entitled “Olympic training: Drudgery Report.”
No doubt the grueling weekly schedule that calls for early morning workouts, personal sacrifice, and daily self discipline, can take its toll. It’s rigorous. Tough. And demanding.
As I anticipate the thrill of watching the games and think about the dedication of the world’s best athletes, I am reminded of another kind of training that requires a similar commitment.
It is quite conceivable that the apostle Paul was a witness to the original Olympic games in Greece. At least he was certainly familiar enough to use them as a metaphor many times in his writings.
To the Corinthians Paul penned, “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Cor 9:25-27).
To his young colleague, Timothy, Paul issued this exhortation.“….Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” (ITim. 4:7-8)
“Gymnasium” is derived from the Greek word “exercise.” This was a place where Greek youths engaged in physical training to develop their bodies for athletic competition. While some benefit is derived from physical training, the apostle affirms that training for godly living provides a value that is more useful and longer lasting.
To train like an Olympic Champion spiritually, we must engage in the exercise of our minds, our emotions, our will, and our conscience. This requires decision, deliberation, self-discipline, and a compelling purpose. It involves reflection, rationality, and restraint.
So, how do we engage in this kind of spiritual exercise? Here are simple four ways that will prove effective:
(1) Getting into the Word. You cannot be correctly trained spiritually apart from the Bible. God’s Word produces faith. Increases knowledge. Provides purpose. Develops strength. Grows character. Supplies comfort. Offers hope. And equips us for life’s problems and Satan’s challenges.
(2) Daily prayer. Prayer brings us into communion with God. It is an exercise of humility, trust, dependance and reverence. No Christian can be spiritually healthy apart from prayer.
(3) Weekly worship. Not only do we experience fellowship with the Father in worship, but we enjoy association with fellow Believers. The exercise of worship makes love sweeter, faith deeper and hope brighter.
(4) Regular meditation. Dee Bowman was right when wrote, “Meditation is vital to spiritual development.” The exercise of reflection on divine matters causes our spiritual muscles to develop and grow stronger.
Spiritual training just like the physical training of an Olympic athlete must become a habit. Be regular. Consistent. Persistent. Ron Gilbert was right when he wrote, “We first form our habits. Then our habits form us.”
The Summer Olympics will no doubt produce some spectacular performances for the all the world to see. The winners will realize the reward of their years of training.
The Christian’s spiritual victories are less obvious to most people. But they are real nonetheless. Be patient. Press on. Keep training. For one day, you will receive the crown of life for all the world to witness.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman