On my 39th birthday, my life came full circle. I ran my first marathon in Dallas, Texas. I can remember it like it was yesterday. The race started with the blast of a shotgun held by a man wearing a cowboy hat and riding a horse. The race was on. Tens of thousands of runners quietly snaked through sleepy neighborhoods and wrapped around White Rock Lake. In the final few miles, we actually ran by Baylor Hospital where I was born. I have to admit it was a bit surreal, running by the place of my birth on my birthday. I decided that if I didn’t make it through the race, at least I would end up where I started out! It took me months to get ready for that race. I teamed up with several marathon veterans, and we went into intense training mode. We ran hills and around lakes; in the wind and rain. We spent hours running and working on technique. Eventually, the training paid off, and we crossed the finish line with our hands held up in the victory position! It wasn’t easy by any stretch, but it was worth it.
What comes to mind when you hear the word “training”? Maybe you think about a professional athlete who is in strict training, preparing for a competition. Maybe you think about a parent training up a child or a new hire being trained for a job. Maybe images come to mind of a soldier being trained for battle or a doctor in residency being trained for a career in the medical field. However you picture it, when a person is trained, he or she is being prepared to do a job.
Training is more than just knowing the right things! It’s also doing the right things for the right reasons. Training produces competence. When a lawyer is fully trained, he or she knows the law and is competent to give you sound legal advice. When a financial advisor is fully trained, he or she can assess your financial portfolio and manage your assets. Fully-trained plumbers are competent to fix your pipes or lay down a new system. Fully-trained computer experts are competent in the most current hardware and software. Training produces competence!
The same is true spiritually. When Jesus chose His 12 men in Mark 3.13-14, He did it to train them. He committed to investing in them in an intensive way so they would be fully competent and ready to lead the movement after He returned to Heaven. Jesus trained His men. In fact, that is precisely the picture of a disciple — someone who is fully trained by a master or Rabbi. And what is the result of this training? Jesus said, “… everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher,” (Luke 6.40 ESV). The goal of a disciple’s training is to look and act like Jesus — to reflect both the character and competencies of Jesus, and to carry on His work.
This is what God wants for your life. God wants for you and me to be fully trained, fully prepared, fully competent, ready to engage in His ministry and carry on His work of making disciples. How is a person trained to walk with Jesus today? Two words: personal investment. In the big picture, spiritual training has both an instructional and practical aspect to it. There are some things you need to know, and there are some things you need to be able to do. Jesus focused on these foundational elements in His training. He didn’t teach His men everything they needed to know (John 16.12 ESV), He just trained them on everything they needed to know to do the work of making disciples who make disciples. In many ways, spiritual training is a lot like parenting. In (1 John 2.12-14 ESV), John speaks to three groups of people. The first group is called “little children”, the second group “young men” and the third “fathers”. Most scholars believe John was speaking to them, not according to their physical age but their spiritual maturity. All of us start off as little children spiritually, just brand new and freshly born again. In this stage we are so happy to be forgiven and made new. Our relationship with our Father is fresh, new and vibrant. We are hungry for more and spiritually eager to learn. If we continue to grow we become “young men”, who are now strong in our faith.
We see God transforming our lives, overcoming our past, and we are growing consistent in our daily intake of God’s Word. Ultimately, if we continue to grow, we become “fathers”. That is, we begin to produce spiritual offspring. We are seasoned in our relationship with Christ, and we are actively sharing the Gospel, leading people to Christ and investing our lives in others. This is the picture of spiritual maturity. This is the path God wants for all of us. He wants you to reach full maturity; fashioned into the “full measure of the likeness of Christ,” (Ephesians 4.13 ESV). This happens through personal investment. As you invest your life in a few, you are training men and women to grow up in their faith. You are showing them how to think like Jesus, act like Jesus and how to help others do the same.
Photo Credit: Quino Al