Human beings are spiritual people. We are made to be spiritual people. There are elements of spirituality seeping through our pours no matter where and what you do and believe. To tell the truth, even atheism is a form of spirituality. It’s a belief system which involves an adherent to a specific belief system and a daily (sometimes conscious, sometimes unconscious) commitment to that belief system.
I’m a Christian. I have a certain set of beliefs and spirituality. More than that, I’m a pastor. It is my job to be a Christian, to be spiritual. I am a professional Christian, a profession spiritual person. It is my job, my responsibility, my calling, to constantly be studying the Bible, to constantly stay in prayer, to constantly seek out God in Jesus’ name through the Holy Spirit.
I like Rocky Balboa. I must admit, I’ve only really seen Rocky and Rocky IV (which are the only ones you really need to see). Rocky is a professional fighter who can go for the ribs like on one else. His profession is to fight. And in Rocky, he trains with Micky and rises to the top and makes friends with his enemy, Apollo Creed. In Rocky IV, it takes on a national scope. It takes on national pride. Rocky is challenged by the Soviet Unions boxer Ivan Drago. Apollo steps in for Rocky and is killed in the ring by Drago.
That’s when it really begins.
For the memory of his friend, for the pride of the nation, Rocky agrees to fight Drago. And this is where the awesome begins. There is a contrast between how Rocky trains and how Drago trains. Check out the 80’s awesomeness of a montage to Hearts on Fire below
Drago uses all this technology while Rocky trains with what is natural. Both train in a way to win the fight, but Rocky is surrounded by a small group of friends of support and have journeyed with him the whole time, while Drago is surrounded by a large group of people who only want one thing from Drago–to perform.
As a pastor I struggle with this. I struggle in training. I need to be in my best spiritual shape (mental and physical shape as well…which I struggle with the physical part) in order to be professionally spiritual and lead as God has called me to do so.
There are passages in scripture that are tough to preach and teach on. There are situations which can be draining mentally, physically, and spiritually. I have to train hard, keep in shape spiritually to do my best in what I’m called to do.
I’m not the only one who needs to train spiritually. We all do. The best way to train spiritually is to begin to follow Jesus. To let him be your Savior, Lord, and Friend. When this happens, your spiritual training begins.
In training spiritually, people want to and wind up training like Drago (intentionally or unintentionally). So many people want to surround themselves in the spiritual training by a large group of people who watch and test. We feel like we must perform. And so we do. And when we get into that mindset, all we do is perform. The only drive we have is for the approval of those who train us to perform.
But that’s not the best way to train spiritually. Rocky is surrounded by friends who have journeyed with him through his life. Some from the beginning, others have joined along the way. Unlike Drago’s training, they are an active part of his training, joining in, challenging him, encouraging him. They aren’t looking for numbers or results. They are helping him towards the final goal.
That’s how we need to train and live spiritually. We need people with us along the journey. We need people who are willing to be active participants with us on our journey. We need others not to get approval from but to get encouragement from, to challenge us, to help us move forward and keep our eyes on the goal.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runner run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-26
Rocky and Drago were training, as are we now. Unlike their training for pride and glory, we’re training and working towards the final goal of being with Jesus and God forever. We are working and training for heaven.
How do we do that?
“Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:26-27
Have focus. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you, who will journey with you, who will challenge you. Don’t train spiritually for others approval or around those who you are trying to perform for. Train hard with a small group of people who you are with. Train hard with them, and encourage them as well as you train together spiritually like Rocky IV.