"I press on toward to goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Jesus Christ." --Philippians 3:14
World Class Athletes.
I've watched in awe these past weeks to see phenomenal performances of young men and women in the 2012 Olympic Games. And part of the awe stems not simply from how they performed in London, but all the hours and years of training that led to this fateful occasion where they either medaled and watched proudly as their national flag fluttered to the rhythm of their national anthem. Or they headed home empty handed.
So much effort and training goes into becoming a world class athlete. Talent alone is not enough. Love for the sport alone does not cut it. I heard one interview which stated that these athletes often train 6-8 hours each day for years to prepare for the Olympic challenge. I am sure there have been many who had the talent, maybe even the love, but not the tenacity to make it to the Olympics.
Or perhaps its not simply that they did not have the tenacity. Perhaps they had other priorities in life. And quite honestly I can't fault them for that. I can certainly understand someone just saying, “It's not worth it to me. I'd rather invest in family or career or whatever with all that time.”
But as I watch Olympic athletes face their moment of truth, I find myself facing a moment of truth of my own. I can't help but think of what the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:27 when he compared the Christian life to that of an athlete in training. “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.”
Through the Holy Spirit, God has granted each of this the ability for spiritual victory. But it does not end there anymore that natural talent make an individual a world class athlete. We have to be willing to train.
Corrie Ten Boom's sister Betsy understood this truth when she lie dying in a Nazi concentration camp. She said: “Corrie, your whole life has been a training for what you are doing here in prison—and the work you will do afterward.”
We've faced a lot this year in GoodSports. If the year had a headline, it would be called our year of death. It started with a suicide at the orphanage in September, continued when our friend Ben Schoonover died of brain cancer in the Spring, culminated with a second apparent suicide at the orphanage in June, followed by the passing of the father of one of our baseball boys in late July. Even now, our dear little Marko from the orphanage suffers such severe health problems that we do not know if he will live to see his eighth birthday next month.
It's been a rough year, and yet somehow I know it is a year of training, training for the next step, the next phase of ministry and life.
And that's a little scary, because it just hurts so much. The hardest training hurts the most, but succeeds in making an athlete stronger, and preparing him for the victory.
To be honest, sometimes I just let myself get distracted from Him who trains me best. And maybe it's because I don't trust Him enough.
I fear the pain of training more than I long for the victory that grows from the deeper relationship with Him.
Are the sacrifices required to become a world class athlete worth it? That may well be up to the individual to decide.
But if we call ourselves “Christian” then we have allegedly “given our lives to Christ.” That means if we are truly Christian, we no longer get to decide if we want to train. We are in training PERIOD.
Sure, we can turn away. We can refuse to learn from our difficulties. We can ignore the Coach, but then we are blatantly choosing not to live the Christian life.
So maybe we just need to embrace the training and in doing so embrace the trainer who will take us to deeper relationship with Himself and fuller victory if we are simply willing “to press on toward the goal” especially when it hurts.