Training to Win

In his letters, the Apostle Paul often used comparisons from the field of sport. In Paul's first letter to TIMOTHY, chapter 4 verse 7, you can see an example of this: "But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness."

To exercise means to train. The 'New International Version' makes this clear: "...Train yourself unto godliness in the fear of God." I like the way it is expressed in 'God's New Bible': "Keep training constantly for a God-fearing life." Training is indispensable for a sportsman, and his days and nights are planned around it. The essence of training is discipline - an unpleasant word in our weak society, which has no taboos; but it is an absolute necessity in Christian life.

Photo of running raceNo individual team or athlete can go without training and then suddenly catch up. Training must be done regularly. Training continues daily, it is a way of life. Sports fans are thrilled when they see a good performance on the sports field. They seldom realise that the actual game is only the climax. It is the training from the previous days, which makes the game a masterpiece of skill. The spectators only enjoy the results of this hard work. An athlete has to make a decision: he might be sorely tempted to enjoy an easy life, like everyone else, but he knows he cannot have both. He has to decide between an easy life and victory in competition. If he tries to have both he will be defeated and humiliated. Some sports are competitions between individual opponents, others are between groups - Christian life includes both.

We have personal fights, but still we are part of a team. If we do not keep up the training, we not only suffer a personal defeat, but the success of the team will also suffer! For the athlete, mental attitude is important. His training includes psychological fitness as well as physical fitness. He needs faith! He must be determined to win. God's teams never aim for a draw. The trainer never sends his players onto the field saying: "Let's try not to lose too badly." The team plays to win. When two teams are equally matched, the group that has the strongest desire to win, will win.

Every Christian must be training to win - not to just remain on their present level or hope to avoid back-sliding, but to gain a decisive victory. "More than conquerors" is the way described by Paul (ROMANS 8:37).

Training is gruelling work. It is never easy, which is why many avoid it. Our natural dislike of discipline may influence our attitude towards spiritual matters. If this is the case, we are at an immediate disadvantage. Consciously, or unconsciously, athletes ask themselves, "Is the aim to win, worth the training I have to endure to achieve it?"

As Christians, we know that the goal is worth everything it may cost. It is worth the discipline and the exhausting effort. Every sacrifice we make on earth is insignificant in comparison to the glory which awaits us.

The training of an athlete consists of many things, just like the training of a Christian. The basic training is: attending church regularly, daily prayer and quiet times daily to read God's Word. Spiritual training includes constantly giving and serving others.

Training includes disciplining our thoughts. This is extremely important, because the battlefield is in our mind. Spiritual training even includes the way we handle our material goods. It helps us to control the impulses of material life, no matter how others live. But there is also a negative aspect to being trained. The athlete's taboos are: rich desserts or other food that would hinder them from being in top form; getting up late in the morning; even having to give up some things that are not damaging in themselves, but which could lessen their ability of giving their best. In order to live a God-fearing life, the Christian must "abstain from all appearance of evil" (1 THESSALONIANS 5:22). He must deny the lifestyle of the present age. He cannot afford to become a slave of habits.

He must control his hot temper and his tongue. We don't train in order to win a temporary crown, but an eternal one. The reward is worth whatever it costs, be it discipline, self-denial or extra effort.

God has not called us to be losers! He has everything prepared in order to make us winners.

The rest is up to us.