One of my all time favorite Olympic athletes is Michael Phelps. He is an Olympic swimmer who from a young age has done amazing things in the sports world. He has won 28 Olympic medals: 23 gold, three silver and two bronze. He set 39 world records during his Olympic career. He is in fact, to this date, the most awarded Olympic athlete ever. He competed in four consecutive Olympic games, spanning 16 years, which is an amazing accomplishment for any athlete.
When you see Phelps and read about his life and career, the first thing you will notice is the immense amount of time and training he has put in to get to where he is today. Training is hard work. It takes long hours and dedication to train to become an Olympic athlete.
Last month I talked about the STEPs we each need to take to be part of God’s special winning team — practical strides to help us reach the finish line in this life and the next. The first skill we need is strength, while the second is training.
Training is something that’s needed for almost any discipline in life, and it’s just as important in our spiritual lives. We need training to be equipped to survive in this world that’s been tainted by sin. The good news is we serve a wonderful God who provides ample support for us throughout our lives to help us get through the challenges we encounter.
Scripture is an amazing resource, full of examples and stories that help us as we journey through this life. In scripture there are many stories of people like David, Solomon, Daniel and Paul, all who needed training in order to work more effectively for God. These individuals weren’t superhuman; rather, they listened to God in their lives and were led by Him as they learned and grew.
David wrote many psalms of the challenges of life, of how he had to rely on God for his strength and comfort. Daniel was trained during the good times in his life. When he was taken captive, he remained faithful to God because he had been trained. He spent his life sharing that God is the one true God of the universe and witnessing that his faith was truly reliant on God for everything.
Paul wrote extensively of the importance of not getting distracted by this world but keeping our eyes and minds fixed on God and heavenly things: “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come" (1 Tim. 4:7,8).
Train for now and the future. Train by living a life dedicated to God. God gives us the tools we just need to learn to use them and be confident in God’s abilities to help us through.
I have found there are some training exercises we can do to become stronger and better equipped to be on God’s Olympic team.
- Read scripture each day. There isn’t an exact amount to read or study. Simply immerse yourself in the Word of God. Get to know His words to us — this is how we learn about God and how He loves us.
- Find time to pray each day. It can be a short prayer in the car as you are speeding along the road. It can be a prayer during a work break or school break. Communicate with God, and be intentional about what you say. Offer Him praise, ask for what you need/want, seek forgiveness from sins, and get to know Him. He wants to have a living, thriving relationship with us — and the way we cultivate that is to communicate with Him in prayer.
- Read Ellen White. She is an amazing gift we have. God shared amazing insights with her through visions and dreams, and we can read her books. Pick up one of her books and read it. See what you think. If you don't like that specific book, try another one. See what you can learn through her writings and her journey with God.
We can become part of God’s team even now, on Earth, and we can begin to taste a bit of heaven, while spending time with our God. He has given us tools and abilities that aid us as we journey through this life. Let’s take full advantage of those tools. Train for the race. Train for what we are facing and will face in this life. God will continue to help us and run alongside us.