In just 6 days I will be running the Pittsburgh Marathon and am so excited for the opportunity to do it! A lot of work has gone in to getting ready for May 5th. I've trained hard. I've logged nearly 300 miles of running since January 21st. I've stretched countless times and have also popped several ibuprofen and have even had to resort to using Ben Gay! I've trained in the rain, in the snow, on the road, on trails, and when the temperature was 5 degrees outside with a windchill that made every step feel like my feet were going to shatter. But, all the training will certainly come in handy on May 5th when I run my second marathon. I can't wait!
As I've trained for this race, a few different thoughts have come to my mind:
1. There's a big difference between trying to do something and training to do something. I heard a guy by the name of John Ortberg use a phrase similar to that one time and I've never forgotten it. I could try to do a marathon on my own, but I undoubtedly would not be able to finish simply by trying to do it. But, training for a marathon makes finishing one totally possible. When I train for something, I order my life around making that "something" happen. Since my goal is to finish another marathon, I've had to order my life around doing the things that make that possible ... in other words, I've had to train for it. I followed a training program. I've run nearly 300 miles in 4 months. I set aside specific times to run and stretch. I invested in good running shoes. When May 5th rolls around, training will take me a lot further than trying.
2. What would it look like to train to be like Jesus instead of trying harder to be like Jesus? I guess I just see a huge difference between trying harder to be like Jesus and training harder to be like Jesus. If I go out and only try my hardest to run a marathon, I will fail. But, if I go out and train my hardest to run a marathon, I'm setting myself up for success. I think it's the same in our relationship with Jesus. Instead of trying harder how about we train harder. Training will take me a lot further than trying.
The Bible has a lot to say about "training:
- 1 Corinthians 9:25 "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."
- 1 Timothy 4:7 - 8 "Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."
- 2 Timothy 3:16 - 17 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
- Hebrews 5:14 "But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."
We are invited in to a life of training for godliness because "godliness has value for all things." It will allow us to "get a crown that will last forever." So, what could that possibly look like? Just a couple of possibilities:
- If you're impatient, instead of trying harder to be more patient how about training yourself to be patient ... drive in the slow lane for a week ... don't pass people ... pick the long lines to wait in ... train yourself to be patient by putting yourself in situations where patience is needed.
- If you're struggling with selfishness, instead of trying harder to be generous, how about training yourself to be generous ... set aside money each week to be given away ... pay for someone's lunch ... make tithing a regular practice ... refuse to buy something for yourself for an extended period of time ... train yourself to be generous by putting yourself in situations where generosity is needed.
- If you're struggling with your thought life, instead of trying harder to think good thoughts, how about training yourself to think positive thoughts. 2 Timothy 3:16 - 17 says the Bible is "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." Hebrews 5:14 says that those who have been trained by the Bible have "trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." So, what specific thoughts do you struggle with the most? Find Bible verses that speak to those issues and memorize them. Focus on the things you're grateful for. Spend time each night reflecting on the positive things that have happened during your day. Do a "thankfulness" walk each week. Train yourself to think godly thoughts by putting yourself in situations where you have to focus on godly things.
We'll never thrive in the Christian life by trying harder. We can't "try" for a godly life, but we can certainly "train" for one. And, for those of us who know Jesus, we have the greatest coach ever ... the Holy Spirit ... living inside of us giving us the edge we need. Jesus said in Luke 6:40 "The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher." If your goal is to be like Jesus, then train yourself to live the way Jesus lived. Training will always take your further than trying.