At Cross Training tonight we had a guest speaker. I’ve heard him speak several times before and honestly hearing him never gets old. His name is Clint McKinnis and he’s from Indiana. He came over here to Oregon several years ago (the first time he spoke at Cross Training was at the house I used to live in on 12th and Mill Alley) because he and his wife felt the call to come plant a church here. His message tonight was, as per usual, powerful.
Clint talked about training for a purpose. In a group of current and former athletes, this kind of message resonates sharply. You don’t show up to practice five days a week just to show up to practice five days a week. You show up to train and you train for when you compete. Oregon’s football team has had the now-infamous motto of “Win the Day,” which, for them, extends well beyond Saturday. It means you’re training to win long before it comes time to compete. Clint took this whole idea of training to perform well and applied it spiritually.
Why do we pray? Why do we read Scripture? Why do we meet up with fellow church goers on Sunday or during the week (or both)? What’s the point of doing all the Christian stuff? One of the verses Clint referenced tonight gives the answer:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified,” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
As Clint put it, we’re training for eternity. It’s not as though worldly ambitions do not matter (i.e. being a good writer or teacher or athlete, etc.), but rather that eternal ambitions matter more. As I listened to his message a question formed in my mind: Do you then keep the secular life and the spiritual life separate? Is it like showing up to a part-time job at a coffee shop in the morning and then going to train for the Olympics in the afternoon? Are the two lifestyles completely irrelevant to each other? Another verse Clint quoted tonight indicates that this isn’t so:
“Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come,” – 1 Timothy 4:7-8
Our training for eternity permeates every bit of our lives. It isn’t as though God wants us to do the Christian thing on Sunday or Tuesday or whatever day we gather with Christian brothers and sisters; but rather, He wants us to follow Him even when no one is around. In fact, I’d say that He wants us to follow His commands especially when we’re alone.
Seeing this Christian life through the eyes of Paul (author of both 1 Corinthians and, according to tradition, 1 Timothy) we then see that when we take up the cross of Christ, we take up an entirely different identity. We’re no longer writers, teachers, sprinters, cross country runners, Republicans, wide receivers, swimmers, gymnasts, Democrats, students, retail associates, or whatever else we might put on a résumé. We’re Jesus’ disciples first and then everything else thereafter. We’re first defined by the King whose Kingdom is not of this world. We’re defined by someone whom we didn’t vote for, but rather someone who voted for us – who voted to sacrifice Himself on our behalf.
As an athlete trains every day to perform when it matters most, we train ourselves in Godliness for when it matters most. The tricky part, though, is that those moments aren’t scheduled. There’s no set time to put on the Christian uniform; we’re to carry our crosses every moment of every day. Realizing this then makes even the mundane secular tasks like showing up to work, doing our homework, or exercising when we’d rather stay in bed all the more important. Paul, then, isn’t saying that eternal ambitions are the most important and secular ones don’t matter at all; he’s saying that secular ambitions matter more in light of eternal ambitions.
To end, I’ll ask the question that Clint asked us tonight: What are some things you can do to train for godliness? Write about it, talk about it, or pray about it, but whatever you do, commit to it. Your life depends on it.