Torch, Winter 1987

.,.. wait on the Lord in prayer. The early church understood the vital importance of this discipline, for "... they continued stedfastly in... prayers" (Acts 2:42). The apostles gave themselves continually to prayer (Acts 6:4) and as a result "...the Word of God increased; and the number of disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly" (Acts 6:7). If we today would have the endurance to finish the race set before us, and to finish it successfully, if we would be godly people, we must exercise ourselves in prayer. 2. Eat a well-balanced diet. A number of years ago the prescribed diet for athletes preparing for an athletic contest was steak. A diet high in protein was assumed to be essential. Today the emphasis is on a well-balanced diet including all of the essential nutritional elements in proper proportions. The good health and physical stamina of an athlete are dependent on a well-balanced diet. A training rule for the Christian involves a kind of diet. What a Christian feeds his mind will largely determine the degree of transformation - godliness - he experiences in his Christian life. Paul reminds us that "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Phil. 4:8). The mind– renewing process is promoted by reading good books - books written by Christians to instruct and edify believers. But even more important in this on-going process of attaining godliness is a steady diet of the Word of God. We are to feed on the "milk of the word" (I Pet. 2:2) and the solid food of the Word (Heb. 5:14) if we are to be properly trained in godliness. Two meals, one day a week, would hardly promote the well-being of an athlete. Yet many Christians hear two sermons on Sunday, never open their Bibles during the week, and seem content for the rest of their lives to limp along the track of the Christian race. It is the Word of God that the Spirit of God uses to sanctify us (John 17: 17), and to make us more like the Son of God (II Cor. 3:18). The Word of God must be a daily part of our training program if we are going to be godly people. 3. Eliminate harmful and hindering habits. It is apparent in today 's athletic scene that one of the athlete's biggest challenges is what he or she will do with drugs. The disqualification of those athletes who are caught using drugs, the rehabilitation programs available for those who want freedom from the drug habit, and the "Just Say No" to drugs campaign all remind us that ath– letes cannot perform well nor do their best if they are engulfed by harmful habits. Neither can the Christian live a godly, Christ-honoring life if his life is plagued with harmful or hindering habits. The writer of Hebrews exhorts believers to "...lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us .. ." (Heb. 12:1), and reminds us that we " ...have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin" (Heb. 12:4). Sin is an ever-present threat to our best efforts, and we must struggle against it. Therefore we are to ".. .lay aside" (take off, get rid of) sins that easily ensnare us and anything that would impede or slow us down as we run the Christian race. The Christian who is serious about training for godli– ness must deal not only with sin but also with priorities. The use of time, the things we read and watch, the hobbies we pursue are things -innocent things presumably - that can be potential hindrances. Indeed, if close examination reveals them to be hindrances, they must be laid aside in order to effectively pursue the higher goal of godliness . 4. Practice! Practice! Practice! The TV scene pictures an athlete alone in an empty gym or stadium, practicing long after others have left. Coaches, during the practice sessions, are constantly going over the fundamentals of the game with the players. I was given a plaque inscribed with the following: "Lord, help me to remember that the race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running." This so– called "Jogger's Prayer" reminds us that in our pursuit of godliness we must be " ...stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord..." (I Cor. 15:58). We are to run "...with patience (endurance) the race that is set before us" (Heb. 12: l). The Christian who is serious about godliness will continue to work and witness for the Lord as necessary and on-going exercises in godliness. Spasmodic service for Christ does not meet the need to practice, practice, practice. Paul put it this way: "Go on running in such a way as to obtain the prize" (I Cor. 9:24). 5. Obey the rules. In any organized athletic competi– tion there are rules that govern the event. To break those rules is to risk being disqualified. Failure to maintain a certain grade level in academics has "benched" many college athletes. In training for godliness Paul said that he exercised self-discipline, lest after he had preached to others, he should be disqualified (I Cor. 9:27). He stressed the importance of obeying the rule book (the Word of God): "And if a man also strive for masteries (enter an athletic contest), yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully" (II Tim. 2:5). It is one thing to know what to do. It is another to do it. Peter tells us that obedience and godly living are inseparable (I Pet. 1: 14-15). 6. Keep your eyes on the goal. A runner is not likely to win the race if he keeps looking back at his opponents. He must keep his eyes fixed on the goal. In the pursuit of godliness, we are motivated and encouraged to fix our eyes on Him Who is our goal and our Exemplar. We are to " with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith" (Heb. 12: l-2). Godliness is a goal which is never fully attained in this life. Yet someday, at the end of the race, we shall see Him in person and shall be like Him (I John 3:2). No, a Christian does not automatically become a godly person because of his personal faith in Christ. Godliness is not inherited, but God will certainly do His part to help His children be godly (Phil. 2: 13). Godliness is acquired and calls for the cooperative effort of the child of God. It requires discipline and training. It takes time and consis– tent, daily effort. But it is well worth the time and effort invested. Paul says that "...godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come" (I Tim. 4:8). 9