The Discipline of Training

January 26, 2021

All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:25-27 NLT

Athletics and competition have endured over the centuries. The Greeks and Romans in Paul’s day created events and practices that remain to this day. Athletes were admired and celebrities of sorts. Paul uses the athletic endeavor as an example of the way to run our spiritual race. He accents several direct comparisons:

There’s a prize; a benefit involved. Everything else for which we strive in this life will fade away and eventually not matter. That fade begins here and now. You may be the best this year, the champion this time, but before too long someone with greater skill or younger age comes along and you no longer have the prize. Spiritual training leads us to character, growth, and relationships that increase with time in our current life, on into forever.

Athletic discipline is intentional and purposeful. It’s not something only done when they feel like it; haphazardly. It’s daily, planned, purposeful. They know where they are now and where they want to be. For us spiritually, training requires knowing where we are and where we want to grow, and deliberately daily working with God on those areas. For instance, if my selfishness erupts in anger from time to time, I don’t just try to apply a quick fix when it has gotten the better of me. I pray and work on it intentionally, every day.

Athletes train their bodies to do what they should; they don’t expect it to be natural and painless. Go to any gym or workout center and you will find motivational posters everywhere. “No pain, no gain.” “Sweat is good.” “Pain into power.” “Push, then push more.” They know the path to where they want to be requires making their bodies do things they don’t feel like doing initially. They know they have to conquer their minds and bodies to get there. The same with our spiritual training. It won’t be easy and requires perseverance and pain to become who we are called to be.

Training is a lifetime job. Athletes who quit training lose their muscles and skills. It just happens. The trend of life is to decline. We have to push against it. Paul said he himself was training continuously because he didn’t want to disqualify himself.

Training requires a fullhearted decision and intentional follow-through. But it’s the only path to health and the prize.

  • How would a spiritual trainer evaluate your health and training system?