Training Hard or Hardly Training?

james1_12“Blessed is the one who remains steadfast (or perseveres) under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
-James 1:12

The 2016 Summer Olympics are just a few months away. Athletes from hundreds of countries are busy preparing for their opportunity to compete in events like basketball, diving, gymnastics and track and field (just to name a few). Each of the countries participating in these events sends their finest athletes to compete for the chance to show that they are the BEST in their sport or game. We enjoy watching the excitement of the competition, have our favorite teams and favorite athletes, but do you ever consider what it takes to become an Olympic athlete?

Looking at several different resources, one of the most important things listed is training, and lots of it. You can have a talent or ability that makes you good or even very good at a game or sport, but athletes strive to be the best that they can be and to do that with consistency. That means you must be willing to put in a lot of time and your best effort all the time. It also involves having a coach and trainers to work with you to train for all situations that you might encounter while you are in the actual event.

The same is true for Christians. While we have been forgiven our sins because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we still struggle with the sinful side of our natures. So, we need to practice not sinning. That’s what being repentant is. It means to stop doing the things that we know are wrong and to do the things that we know are right. And, we don’t have to do this alone. Like athletes have coaches and trainers and special equipment to work and train with, Christians have God’s Word (the Bible) and His Sacraments (Baptism and Holy Communion) to work with. We have pastors, elders and other spiritual leaders to work with us, and the Holy Spirit as the best coach to train and guide us.

So, why do we need to do this? Just like athletes, we must be prepared to handle ourselves in all kinds of situations. We all experience trials or times of difficulty, don’t we? So, do we wait until we are in those times to figure out what to do? Well, that’s one possibility, but just as with the athlete, we might not be prepared to handle the situation and we might fail. The good news is, if we do fail, Jesus is there to forgive us, to pick us up, dust us off and try again. But, better still, like the athletes, isn’t it better to train, to be better prepared and maybe even help our fellow Christians on their way (like a relay race team).

The more we train, the stronger we will get in our walk of faith. We will build endurance, which we are told “produces character, and character produces hope.” (Romans 5:3-4) In the end, we will finish this race. On that last day, Jesus will be there to greet us at the finish line, where He and His Father will say ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Training with you, Pastor Bill

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