Guest post by Bradley J. Scott
Trying or Training?
Inspired by John Ortberg’s The Life You’ve Always Wanted
“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.”
1 Cor. 9:25
Lord, I am on the verge of a breakthrough of understanding the difference between a “trying” mentality and a “training” mentality with respect to my spiritual growth. The eye opener came when I looked at my training for the “Ragin Games CrossFit Competition”. Ariana and I have gone all in. We’ve transformed our eating habits: zero processed food, no HFCS, no msg, almost no sugar… the list goes on. And it has taken a lot of research and deliberation to change these things.
But I realized, for the first time in my life, I’m not even tempted to get Oreos and Doritos.I don’t even want to eat the free doughnut at church, and I have a sweet tooth. Why? What changed? I’m training. I have a goal. I’m focusing everything in my control on bettering my performance. Training, eating, sleeping… I want to be the best version of Brad I can be; to see how well I can perform in competition when I’m dedicated to it. Doing a competition halfway is pointless and would just become frustrating again.
First off, I noticed I became more disciplined in my faith at the same time. More consistent devotion times, more victory in taking thoughts captive against temptation, I was developing a desire for discipline. A life unmarked by surrendered discipline is a life without purpose.
What I’ve now realized, after fighting temptation hard again for a few days, trying to confide in some accountability partners, and trying not to sin, is this: I’m still trying. I’m not training. I still want the oreos.
Now, I need to define my terms here or we’ll get confused. With regard to fitness training I would still “like” (taste, yummy…) to eat Oreos; I’ll call this “flesh want”. BUT, I do not desire to eat Oreos because there is so much more cost than gain with respect to my goals (my deepest desires). I’ll call this “soul desire”. It’s far deeper, and is based on a perspective that considers the long-term (eternal) reward/cost instead of the momentary flesh want.
SO, I have a goal for my performance; I change my life habits, eating and training (get it in the schedule, do what it takes) because my soul desire overpowers my flesh want. Mind-set change: I’m not trying any more; I’m training. I’m putting myself under the influence of the Spirit.
“…but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Romans 8:5
I also have a goal spiritually – to glorify God and grow and be conformed into His image until the day I die.
“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Phil 2:12, 13
This is a much deeper goal than physical training. A goal that is far more important to me. (To be clear, only the Holy Spirit in us can reorient a flesh want to a soul desire. Otherwise we’re just trading in one flesh want for another!) Yet I have not been able to completely switch into a training mindset spiritually. I don’t feel all in, but I desire/long to be so.
I can desire and long to be fit all day long… while I eat pizza, but I will never be fit until I get knowledgeable, create a training plan, and make it happen – attack one issue at a time, figure out a solution for each, and execute. True training takes a lot of testing, trial and error, to see what works. Some things that seem good won’t work – scheduling, types of foods, energy levels…etc. But I continue to refine my plan and push through, because it’s not a new year’s resolution; I’m not looking for immediate results, I’m looking for long term transformation through His Spirit working in me and me obeying. (Character change via habit development)
“Longing transforms obedience.” CS Lewis
The parallels from body to soul are plain.
Do I want victory or not? Yes? Then start training.
Create a plan – change one thing at a time.
My current plan:
(We are all in different places and situations in our lives; this is just a sample for where I am right now.)
Start Training: (One thing at a time.)
- Get a good hour of devotion time with the Lord – (preferably first thing in the morning)
- Prayer alone with God (should be before bed ideally to cast off all my concerns from the day and refocus on the Lord)
- Review Bible verses – Eph. 6:17 This is my ammunition for war prayer.
Thank you Jesus for this Breakthrough: “Training” has a goal and a plan and gets after it. “Trying” has an undefined goal and no plan.
“I discipline my body and make it my slave,” 1 Cor 9:27
“… train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things” 1 Tim. 4:7,8
What’s your next step in training for godliness?