Thursday, January 8, 2009

Reaching for the Prize: God's Gym

Have you ever tried, really hard, to adjust your thought life? Try this little experiment: For thirty seconds, try not to think about red monkeys. Take your watch and see if you can banish the image of red monkeys from your mind for half a minute. Are you ready? Go.

If you're like most of us, the very first thing that popped into your mind when the experiment began was a bright crimson babboon. The harder we try NOT to think about something, the more likely we will be to dwell on it. This is why it is so difficult to overcome thought patterns of worry, fear, lust, anger, or doubt.

It's true of other areas of sin as well...from lying to swearing to losing our temper, we can't seem to change simply by trying hard. John Ortberg, in his book The Life You've Always Wanted, says instead of trying, we ought to be training. He puts it this way: If you were going to run a marathon, would you simply roll out of your recliner one day and drive to the race? That would be a recipe for failure. No matter how hard you might try, you couldn't go straight from a sedentary lifestyle to running 26 miles. Instead, you would have to spend months training for the race, little by little, until you had built up the strength and stamina it takes to complete a marathon.

In our quest to become like Christ, we have to start training for righteousness, not just trying "really hard" to overcome sin. That idea didn't come from Ortberg, it came from God. In 1 Timothy 4:7-8, Paul urges us to train ourselves to be godly. The word "train" he uses (in the NIV) is the Greek word gymnazo, from which we get our English word gymnasium. What does it mean to train for godliness? What kind of gym does God operate? Those are the questions we'll explore this Sunday at 10:30.

By the way, if you haven't yet started our Reaching for the Prize study, we'll have more workbooks ready to hand out this Sunday. Make sure you get one. The study is also posted as a pdf file on our website (

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