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This is true.
It even applies spiritually.
Pain in training is the result of weakness leaving our bodies. I first saw this on an ad for the U.S. Army years ago. The truth is that it is not possible to build strength, endurance, skill, and stamina while being comfortable.
In the natural world, it takes sweat, strain, effort, determination, and… pain. No muscle is built without resistance. Resistance training (weights, etc.) is painful. The wise athlete sees pain as the truth conveyed in the image above: weakness leaving the body.
It is the same in the spirit. We cannot build faith, strength, and a deeper, more intimate–and therefore stronger and more powerful–relationship with God without effort, struggle, determination, and discipline.
In today’s Scripture passage, Paul uses the analogy of physical competition and discipline to convey the truth of spiritual struggle. He makes the point clear that such discipline is essential for victory. He says that “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.”
We will stay here for a moment. This would be a good place to ask a question: What is “strict training” in a spiritual sense? It is NOT reading books, watching videos, and listening to worship music. These increase knowledge and are important, but they are not the “strict training” of which Paul speaks. So, what is it?
Training in any endeavor is doing. The reading, watching, and listening is to learn what to do when you move into actual training. And actual training takes place “out there”, not in the safety and comfort of your home.
Training is real life. It is experience. It is as real as boot camp is for a soldier. Ask one; they will tell you that boot camp was the most beneficial misery they ever endured. This is the idea of the “strict training” of which Paul spoke.
Yesterday I called out a challenge for the coming year. You may have found it uncomfortable. (Frankly, I hope so.) If you did, see it as an indication that growth needs to take place in your life. I will be the first to say that it needs to be so in mine. No one–and I mean NO one–has “arrived”. There is no graduation ceremony here; that is reserved for after this life.
Challenging situations this year may cause you pain. When it happens, you must find the discipline to not only survive it, but thrive and excel in it. This begins with seeing the pain you feel as weakness leaving your mind and emotions as your flesh nature is subdued by Holy Spirit through your spirit (Romans 8).
The discipline you must develop is to use your conscious awareness to recognize this process. Then, rather than avoiding them, seek God for what He has for you to learn in each painful situation and experience you encounter.
I promise you: If you are hurting, you will learn something that will make your life incomparably better than it was before–IF you will do this. It is a principle to which I have yet to see an exception in my life. This is also a lesson I learned the hardest of ways and hope to shorten your learning curve by what I teach.
When (not if) pain comes, the discipline you have developed will enable you to let it purge the weakness from you and make you stronger. This will be your decision in “the moment of truth”. Without it, you likely will run (attempt to avoid it).
Don’t run. Be strong. Be dangerous. Be mindful of your ‘why’: You are doing it to, as Paul said, “get a crown that will last forever.”
Choose to endure a little discomfort now to obtain joy forevermore. This is the prize. It is a prize worth fighting for. Are you ready?
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. (1 Cor 9:24-26 NIV)
Prayer: LORD, You use challenging and painful things that happen in my life as part of my training. Strict training, though unpleasant, is necessary to achieve a good result. Help me look beyond discomfort, disappointment, and inconvenience to see my purpose in You. Help me learn in every situation I encounter. Lead me where I need to go and teach me what I need to know. Do whatever You need to do to make it so. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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“Today’s Seed” from E-MIN Jan. 3, 2023