Have you ever heard of the term, “practice player?” It’s a phrase used to describe an athlete who performs really well during practice but does not deliver the same result in the competition or contest. It is important to note that this designation or trend really might have nothing to do with that person’s drive, ability, or skill, as there can be many factors for this label to be placed on certain individuals in the world of sport or competition. In my own experience, I was the furthest thing from a practice player in the sense that I usually didn’t enjoy practices. I thought they were boring, a bit dull, and definitely not as cool or exciting as the real games. The thought of spending two hours running sprints, going through drills, and walking through plays, game plans, and scenarios didn’t really get me pumped up to give my all or perform my best. But when the lights came on and it was game time, my mind, heart, body, and soul were motivated in ways that did not exist during a practice. I would exert myself and be focused at a far greater level than if it was just going through the motions of a practice. Can any of you relate to this? Maybe it’s not on a court or a field, but how about in life? Many of us usually don’t glorify or get fired up about training. We know we need it, that we should do it, that it is essential and valuable, but many times we just don’t find it very enjoyable or engaging.
Consider two examples of how even films depict training. In most superhero movies, the person usually finds out they have these powers that need to be homed in and refined and so there is always this period of training where they are working on their particular gift and skill. Usually there is music playing in the background and they are doing some cool stuff like shooting spiderwebs at targets. It’s as if the movie makers are saying, “Yeah, we know this is boring. The hero is learning stuff. You need to know it’s happening because training is important, but we’re going to skip through it and shorten it to get to the good stuff.” Now compare this to the very iconic scenes in the Rocky movies where his training always occurs with some now-made-famous tunes like “Eye of the Tiger” blasting in the background during these elongated scenes. The principle is the same. Training is important and necessary, but not very exciting so it needs to get jazzed up a bit.
As we continue our walk through the Apostle Paul’s letters to young Timothy, we come to Chapter 4 where Paul is continuing to encourage Timothy to see the value of his training in a knowledge and love of God through His Word. He writes that training is essential to help us grow in the Lord, training equips us to handle various situations and circumstances that life may throw at us, and training gives us a continual reminder of the hope that we have as we grow in godliness. Training is not meant to be treated as a waste of time or an effortless ordeal.
Maybe each of us need this reminder too as we walk through this life in faith? How often do we fall into a pattern where we fail to see the benefit of spiritual training and encouragement in God’s Word? How often does that lead us into apathy when it comes to growing in our knowledge and love of God? How often does this rob us of the hope that is ours in Christ? We are invited to see God’s training as essential for who He is making us to be.
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:8-10 NIV)
Pastor Ben Bigaouette