The offender was coming down the field with the ball. I braced myself as I intently watched and prepared for my impending move. I was the goalie for the high school soccer team. Diving in the air to defend my goal was a normal part of the position and I was ready. I had faithfully practiced daily with the rest of my teammates in preparation for meeting our opponents. We ran laps, did push ups and completed the drills the coach instructed. As an athlete, working out was not an option. You didn’t play if you didn’t work out.
Fast forward a couple of decades and I’m no longer diving through the air blocking the opponent’s shot. (Though raising an energetic 4-year old boy almost constitutes.) The truth, however, is I’m no longer an athlete competing in a physical sport. Working out is definitely optional at this point in my life. If I skip a day on the bike, miss my jog or run out of time to power walk, no one is really going to say anything. I’m not going to get kicked out of my family or lose my job. Sure, I won’t be as “fit” or “in-shape” but I’m also not competing with the same athletic intensity as I did in high school.
Many believers think of their spiritual lives much the same way. We consider our spiritual work outs as totally optional to the Christian life. We forget we are athletes–part of a team who is competing to win. Over and over in Paul’s letters to the churches, he refers to believers as runners in a race–competing to win the prize. I like how simply Paul states it in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
In a race all the runners run. But only one gets the prize. You know that, don’t you? So run in a way that will get you the prize. All who take part in the games train hard. They do it to get a crown that will not last. But we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
What a great picture. You are an athlete (maybe not in the physical sense but certainly in the spiritual sense.) If you are a believer, you signed up for the team. You’re in and your spiritual work outs impact your endurance and performance in the race. Working out isn’t always easy. It is hard to find time and it may require training that stretches and grows you. However, those who skip workouts are rarely ready to get in the game.
Start today. Open your Bible, talk to God and begin stretching those spiritual muscles. You are an invaluable part of the team. Suit up…it is time to get in the game!