As I coach, I passionately believe that games are won in practice. The mental and physical preparation that a team goes through when the gym is empty conditions them to perform well when the gym is full. Practice is the means of creating automatic responses by the athletes, so when the pressure of competition comes they respond naturally. Every Christian is striving to act like Jesus, but are we dedicated to practicing like Him?
“Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God….. Luke 2:52
To grow in favor with God is to grow spiritually; to respond to people and events in our daily lives the way that Jesus would, and obey God. Jesus did not intend for this to be a difficult task, but one that is restful. After all, he says in Matthew 11:29-30, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” So why is it so difficult to suppress our flesh and live the way Jesus did?
We often look at the way Jesus responded in situations and try to emulate that, but we neglect to emulate his preparation for those moments. This is best said by author Dallas Willard in his book The Spirit of Disciplines. “So ironically, in our efforts to avoid the necessary pains of discipline we miss the easy yoke and light burden. We then fall into the rendering frustration of trying to do and be the Christian we know we ought to be without the necessary insight and strength that only discipline can provide”
My husband gets upset if I beat him playing tennis. I gently remind him that he doesn’t put in a lot of time practicing, so how can he expect to consistently win? It takes the discipline of swinging that racket over and over again, if he wants to be victorious. Spiritual growth is no different. The battle to forgive that friend who just hurt you deeply, was won in your prayer time. The strength to resist that temptation was imparted in you every morning when you read your bible. You were only able to apply scripture to that sticky situation you were in, because you had those scriptures memorized. Spiritual battles are won when the gym is empty.
One of my favorite quotes is, “The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle.” If we want the yoke to live like Jesus to be easy, sweat equity is required.