The national anthems ring from South Korea as the Olympics continue. Each day, more athletes achieve their end goal: a medal and national glory. While we watch athletes perform for their shot at a medal, the reality is that the athletes have put in thousands upon thousands of hours to demonstrate their skills once or twice in front of the world. Their training is marked by several specific characteristics. 

1. Training involves discipline.
Most people would have said snowboarder Amy Purdy would never enjoy her sport again after a fight with bacterial meningitis. The infection ultimately cost her two organs and her legs. But Amy determined she could still participate in her sport despite her disabilities. With discipline and training, she became a world champion and won the bronze medal in the Sochi Winter Paralympics.

In the same way, any training, whether for godliness or fitness, involves laser like attention and focus on the task at hand, no matter the circumstances that come our way. We must create a time to prioritize growing in strength in God’s Word, time with His people, and time talking to Him to grow our spiritual muscles so that we can be equipped for our calling and task.

2. Training involves constant practice.
Know how some of Team USA’s skiers and snowboarders are practicing for the Olympics? Virtual reality. Thanks to technology, these athletes are able to practice the course they will be racing over and over before competing in PyeongChang. Before they ever arrive on site for the practice run, the athletes are familiar with the course thanks to the 360-degree visual technology. They can virtually prepare for different conditions, and their coaches can give them hands-on feedback on form and technique. 

The writer of Hebrews states that for us to have characteristics of someone trained in godliness we ourselves must be training constantly (Heb. 5:14). Just as the athletes only get better through constant practice, so we can only strengthen our relationship with the Lord through successive and consistent work. The more we spend time with him, the more prepared we are for the bends and dips in the course He has set before us.

3. Training involves a right perspective.
Thirty-one year old skier Bryan Fletcher (http://nbcnews.to/2HfWU5Q) can proudly claim two titles: he is an Olympian and a childhood cancer survivor. His love of skiing was born in the midst of his battle with leukemia. But the disease didn’t slow him down. He continued to ski even during chemo. Difficulty in his life has shaped his perspective as an adult. While competition is part of the sport, for Bryan it isn’t the end goal. He is focused and thankful to be able to do what he loves. That love has given him an international platform at the 2018 Olympics.

Spiritual training just like physical training involves focused small steps. You are not going to be able to compete in the Olympics after skiing for a month, just as you’ll never reach full spiritual maturity by reading your Bible for a day or week. These athletes put in the work for the end prize. So do we, believer. 

We put in the work and the training because we know our calling mentioned in Philippians 3:14: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”