Each sport has a different name for it. In football, it is the practice field. In soccer, it is the training ground. In baseball, it might be the batting cage. In golf, it is the driving range and the practice green. As someone who loves to play golf, I can tell you that it is infinitely more fun to play 18 holes of golf than it is to hit a bucket of balls or spend an hour chipping and putting. The drudgery of hitting balls at targets when you could be hitting them for a score is part of what makes practice challenging. The player who loves to practice (like PGA Tour pro Vijay Singh, who for years has hit hundreds of balls every day) seems to be the exception rather than the rule. But, it is certain that a person’s success during the game will be directly affected by that person’s commitment to the preparation that is embodied on the training grounds of their sport (or career or endeavor).
This is not limited to sports in particular or to life in general. It is also a reality in our relationship with God. So then, what are some of life’s “spiritual” training grounds? There may be a dozen or more good answers to that question, but for our purposes we will focus on three great places to begin:
- Scriptures—Without a commitment to the Scriptures, we have no basis for the wisdom our hearts need as we face the challenges of life in a fallen world. This may be why the apostle Paul wrote, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
- Experience—When David, the young shepherd boy, offered to represent the armies of Israel against the enemy Goliath, he was told that he was in over his head. There was no way this youth could compete at that level. But David dipped into his years of experience shepherding his father’s flocks and the challenges he had faced, including his encounters with and conquests over lion and bear (1 Samuel 17:34-36), and he applied the lessons learned to the task at hand. As a result, he won a great victory over the Philistine giant.
- Example—We all need people in our lives we can watch and learn from. Paul understood that need and told the church at Corinth something that, on its face, seems to be fairly bold. He said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). They were not to imitate him in all things or in just anything, but they were to follow his example as long as he was modeling the example of Christ.
This again is a good starting place for life’s training grounds. As we embrace the wisdom of the Bible, we have a base on which to operate in our walk with Christ. As we grow in life, we will accumulate a backlog of experiences that can inform our living going forward. And having more-experienced mentors to show us the ways of Christ and what they look like in the world is a priceless gift. This is where we can begin to develop in our walk with the Lord. Then the challenge will be to take that walk from the training ground into the arena of life. That is the essence of what makes Christian living so exciting!
Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain