DTS Magazine

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.

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