Written by: David S. Vanderpool, Director of Development & Marketing, Agriculture Program Coordinator
Recently my friends and I decided we wanted to train for a half Ironman triathlon. We are running, swimming, biking, lifting, and training on a daily basis. We’ve changed our diets and read training books in our free time. We wake up long before the dawn to hit the gym for a few hours before we have to go to work. Our conversations now revolve around our split times and different bike models. We’ve all always been athletic and active but once we all paid the money for the triathlon and set our goals our focus took on a whole new intensity. Setting our goals changed our lifestyle.
How do we set goals within our Christian walk? What are our spiritual goals? Maybe we say we will curse less, or control our temper better, or gossip less, or... sin less. But what do we do? What do we do more? Love more? What does that look like? Pray more? Spend more time in the Bible? Ok, but what are we training for? What’s our triathlon at the end of our goal? If we choose to read the entire Bible in a year, what does that help us achieve?
What if our spiritual triathlon that we were training for was planting a church, becoming a missionary, or selling everything and giving it to the poor. How many of us are in good enough spiritual shape right now to finish that kind of triathlon? But more importantly, how do we even begin to train for that race? Where is our spiritual gym, what are our spiritual exercises, and how do we set our training goals?
Prayer is definitely a part of our training. Spending time meditating on scripture should be a huge part of our daily regiment. But we need more. We need a healthy spiritual diet to trim the fat of our sinful lifestyles and to feed our spiritual muscles. We need to spend hours pounding the pavement running our spirit until our feet are numb. BUT WHAT IS THAT?
I think it starts with sacrifice. Just like how the athlete sacrifices his time, comfort, and energy for training we too need to sacrifice ourselves for Christ, for our spiritual training. If our personal priorities are not Christ’s then our training will be incomplete and we will burn out mid-race. We must sacrifice our lives, our lifestyles, and our priorities and adopt His as our own.
As the athlete trains and her muscles tone up, her speed increases and her times get faster, the results of her hard work become more and more evident. Where is the proof of our spiritual training? The fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I can honestly say that I am not producing most of those fruits. No one who knows me would ever describe me as gentle. Patience is certainly not one of my strong suits. I tend to think of myself as a man of war rather than of peace. My spirit is very undertrained. I MUST exercise those muscles. They are so atrophied that when it gets to that part of the race where they’re needed I will collapse quickly.
However, toned muscles are not my goal. My physical body is strong and healthy but I cannot go out and compete in a triathlon today. I must train more. The fruit of the Spirit is not my goal; it is the by-product of a healthy spirit. And a healthy spirit is what I need to run my spiritual triathlon. We all need to sign up for our race, pay the dues, and commit ourselves to a training regiment. Then get out there and go. Spread the Gospel. Take care of the Poor. Tend to the sick. Sacrifice yourself for G-D and His glory. And submit yourself to His will.