Train like an athlete
I’m sure I am not the only person who looks at the sleek performances of Olympic athletes and thinks that these professionals make complex and demanding sports look effortless and, almost, achievable for an amateur like me.
After some more consideration, I look at their concentration faces and their determined focus. I take in their strong bodies—muscular physiques which didn’t just occur overnight. I think of the years that pass between Olympic games, the training sessions, the qualifying events. National tournaments and world champs.
These incredible athletes make it look easy. But they don’t simply win a gold medal because they tried harder than their competitors. It will be because they trained harder.
They simply couldn’t have woken up on 1 January 2021 and thought “right, the Tokyo Olympics are happening in less than 7 months, now I better get training!”. No – they have been training for this performance, this moment, for years.
They don’t arrive at the racetrack, the court, the field, the starting blocks and think: “I’ve just to try harder than everyone else.” No – they must perform better. It’s not about trying, it’s about doing. And they cannot ‘do’ without sufficient training.
“Not about trying harder but training harder.”
As you see, performing well is about training well. Preparation is key: developing muscle memory, refining technique, improving cardio fitness. These principles are just as valid for us and our spiritual lives.
Trying harder isn’t going to get us into heaven. It’s not about what we do that means we are saved.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (Romans chapter 5, verses 1-2)
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourself, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians chapter 2, verses 8-9).
Likewise, trying harder isn’t going to get us through the tough seasons of life, or daily ordinariness.
Instead, we ought to train harder and prepare ourselves for what life throws at us—because while we can be optimistic about the joy we can experience in life, realistically we also need to anticipate that bad things sometimes happen. What we can do to deal with these things is to prepare, to train.
We can develop the muscle memory of picking up our Bible or praying when we feel anxious or facing a tough situation. We can refine what we think about ourselves and God, informed by His truth. Improving our spiritual fitness might look like seeking wise counsel and mentors, growing in our discernment, and creating a rhythm with Jesus.
“Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”” (1 Timothy chapter 4, verses 7-8).
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy chapter 3, verse 16).
I find this so encouraging because in a world that is so quick to judge our performances and our effort, it is actually all the hard work behind the scenes that matters. I think of the faith-filled people I know and I just know they regularly spend time reading and praying. It is so obvious that these people are putting in the training.
And what is more encouraging to me is that training is something that happens over time. It is something we come back to and we get better at with time. God doesn’t write us off because in one fretful moment we didn’t try hard enough.
Whether we try hard or not (whatever that even looks like in our spiritual lives) won’t matter because it is our training that matters, our spiritual rhythms.
On a Sunday night at my church recently, a wise man said, “it is not about trying harder, but training harder.”
And since our faith in Jesus is about a relationship with Jesus, training hard—spending time in His word, presence and praying—is the very thing we can do to get to know Him more. That’s absolutely a good thing.
Rebecca Hoverd studies law and geography at The University of Auckland and loves writing as a way to communicate with God and to unpack her thoughts. She loves coffee, conversations, and would love to hear your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.