Spiritual Spring Training
Sometimes I feel like the Strike-out Queen in my walk of faith. Do you ever feel that way? I sometimes feel overwhelmed and discouraged so that I want to sit out for a while. And I know I’m not alone. Circumstances clobber us. We’ve struck out, fouled out, and been called out at the plate. How do we play with a winning faith, especially when we feel like quitting?
The writer of Hebrews gives us a plan for spiritual spring-training camp that we can use in any season. In Hebrews 11 and 12:1 we find examples of people with spiritual strength and with enduring, “winning” faith. In this passage we see many of God’s Hall-of-Famers, players who have gone before us: Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Rahab, Samson, David, and Samuel.
The winning faith of these Old Testament athletes guarantees that they will receive heavenly prizes, and that we, as believers, will witness that rewards ceremony together. Most of them struck out at times just like we do today, but they kept playing. And God commended their faith and declared them winners.
So how do we prepare for spiritual fitness? What should our spring training look like? The author of Hebrews commands us to practice three drills for an enduring faith.
Drill #1—Drop the weight and stay in shape.
“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (Heb. 12:1).
During spring-training camp, major-league baseball players avoid eating ice cream sundaes with every meal. Does that mean they can never eat chocolate chip ice cream again? No. But sometimes the good can keep us from the best.
Instead of sundaes, hindrances for us may come in the form of extra commitments in our busy schedules, certain relationships, overusing the Internet, or working too much overtime. What consumes your thinking and time? Determine what’s excess weight and lose whatever is unnecessary for now.
Recently we’ve heard about major-league baseball players who have used quick fixes, steroids, to help them win. Spiritually our steroids are often sins disguised as quick fixes. We lash out when we should remain patient. We speed rather than bear the consequences of leaving late. We all sin. Yet Jesus died for those sins. Ask God to reveal any sin in your life. When He does, confess it and make things right with others, if necessary. If you need help dropping the sin, get help. The less sin we have weighing us down, the faster we can run.
Not only do we need to drop the weight, but we also need to stay in shape. We must tone and develop strong spiritual muscles that come only the hard way—by using them. Just like the basic drills involved in mastering baseball such as running, throwing, and hitting, we also have spiritual basics: listening to and talking to God; telling others about Him; growing in relationships with non-Christians so that when God opens the door, we’re ready to be His players; and building meaningful relationships with other believers.
Drill #2—Stay in the game.
“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (12:1).
We must prepare to play the entire game. The Chicago White Sox are now known for winning the 2005 World Series, but they also hold the record for endurance. In a 1984 game against the Milwaukee Brewers, they won, 7–6, after eight hours and six minutes—twenty-five innings! Talk about perseverance.
In our walk of faith we must decide ahead of time to play well to the end, no matter what. Our strength comes from our relationship with Christ.
What if we’re continually discouraged? Perhaps we’re playing the wrong position. God has made each of us unique to do specific tasks (Eph. 2:10). We must make sure we know how God has made us and that we’re using the gifts He gave us. If we don’t know what our spiritual gifts are, we can take inventory. Friends we trust can give us helpful feedback.
Drill #3—Keep your eyes on the coach.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men” (12:2–3).
Our Coach far surpasses any baseball drillmaster. We can trust Him because He believes in us and chose us for the team. (See Eph. 1:1–2:10.)
When we feel like we’ve fouled out, it’s time to focus on Jesus. Like a camera lens that brings into view only what’s important, our focus on Jesus blurs the surroundings and sharpens our view. When we choose to focus on Him, we’re not concentrating on ourselves and feelings, other people, or the hard circumstances.
Our Coach was also the greatest player here on earth. He is the ultimate Hall-of-Famer! We can learn by paying attention to how He played. As we read back through the Gospels, we find times in Jesus’ life that are similar to ours, and we learn how He made it through. We can trust Him. He’s been there. He understands how we feel. Jesus, our Coach, persevered. When the times get tough, we can think about what He endured for His relationship with us, and remember that He constantly is coaching us.
Even with a good game plan, you may sometimes, like me, resemble a Strike-out Queen. Yet when that happens, it’s time to practice the drills. The Coach who made us and chose us for His team has the power to see us through. He knows what plays to call. All we have to do is keep our eyes on Him.
Michele Calvert (MA/CE, 1991) enjoys life with her husband, Chris (ThM, 1992), and their three children in sunny Yakima, Washington. She avoids playing baseball but loves working as a freelance writer and editor.