Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What Are You Training For?

My church recently changed our small groups so that each week they discuss the sermon instead of separate topics. As part of this change the group members receive the discussion questions on Thursday or Friday so they have time to prepare before some of the groups meet on Sunday. We'd been doing this for a while when a member told me, "I'm getting so much more out of the sermons because I'm spending more time preparing to worship and think about the topic."

At about the same time my friend Jeremy wrote this blog post about training and preparation which I'm sure you'll find encouraging.

I've been reading an excellent book on personal leadership and growth by Jay Bilas. The book is called Toughness. Jay Bilas was a former college basketball player at Duke and is currently a college basketball analyst with ESPN. He discusses several principles in his book that, if followed, enable one to build resiliency and toughness in life.

One of his early chapters is about preparation. His focus in that chapter is that preparation develops the ability to persevere through whatever difficulty you might face. To a casual fan, college or pro basketball might look like little more than a pickup game played at a higher level. To a player, coach or analyst, the game is much more, and preparation is key to that. Jay wrote that he spends more time and works harder to prepare to announce a game than he did as a player getting ready to play a game.

How does this idea of preparation intersect with our spiritual lives? I've written before about Jesus' teaching about diligence and watchfulness. But we can go further. If the summation of God's call on our lives is to love him with our entire being and to love our neighbor as ourselves, how does preparation play into this?

Simply, we must prepare if we are going to live the life God calls us to. We practice, we think, we read, we pray. All these things are "practice" that help us prepare so that in the moment, we are ready to serve God. For these reasons, Paul writes both, "Train yourself in godliness" (1 Timothy 4:7) and "Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one" (1 Corinthians 9:25).

By applying the concept of preparation--by reading the Bible, examining the details of our lives, praying for strength, help and guidance, and thinking ahead about how we will handle the different temptations and opportunities in our lives--we will be diligent and watchful as Jesus calls us to be.

Think about Paul's encouragement to train yourself in godliness. How will you do this? 

Jeremy Hoover is the minister at the Otisville Church of Christ in Otisville, Michigan. His website is at He is an avid sports fan who enjoys biographies about athletes and books by coaches. His favorite sports are hockey, where he roots for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and football, where he pulls for the New England Patriots.

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