Prepare and Compete Like an Athlete!

And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.2 Timothy 2:5

After telling Timothy to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, Paul then switches to a new illustration so he can make another important point. The purpose of the discussion is still the same: Paul is explaining to Timothy how he should face the difficulties that lie before him at the moment. With that purpose in mind, Paul says, “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.”

The word “strive” is from the Greek word athlesis, which always described a man involved in a tremendous athletic competition. This kind of athlete was serious about his sport and totally committed to the goal of climbing to the top in his profession. He was willing to undergo any hardship, any training, any regimen, and any kind of discipline in order to reach that goal of becoming the very best in his field of sports. The word athlesis describes this type of committed, full-time, professional, determined athlete. This is the picture Paul now uses when he speaks to Timothy about overcoming the challenges he is facing.

Remember that Paul has already told Timothy to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (v. 3). Now by changing his illustration to that of a professional athlete, Paul is asking Timothy (and us) a very potent question: “Are you willing to be as committed to winning your fight as athletes are to winning in their sport? How committed are you? Is a little pressure going to elbow you out of the race, or are you more committed than the inconveniences you are experiencing along the way? How badly do you want to win?

We must honestly ask ourselves these questions if we want to determine the true level of our commitment. You see, it is wonderful to serve the Lord and be a part of the local church when we aren’t facing any big problems in life. It’s easy to tithe, give offerings, attend meetings, pray, and sing with other believers when our level of service basically costs us nothing.

However, what are you going to do if things change and it starts to become more challenging to serve the Lord? What if it becomes difficult to hold fast to the vision He put in your heart or to the commitment you made to His call on your life? Will you still serve the Lord with joy? Will you still be faithful to your local church? Will you still give your tithes and offerings?

You see, it is the spiritual fights in life that always reveal the genuine level of our commitment. Look again at what Paul says in Second Timothy 2:5: “And if a man also strive for masteries.…” Particularly notice the word “man,” because this is the Greek word tis. This word tis would be better translated anyone. The idea this word presents is anyone at all.

This tells us two very important things. First, anyone can compete in the life of faith. This verse is for tis — for anyone. Second, it tells us that anyone who desires to be a successful competitor had better pay heed to the proper preparation and training required to make him a winner! Notice Paul says that a man will not be crowned “…except he strive lawfully.”

The word “lawfully” doesn’t refer to the rules of the game, but to the training and preparation that professional athletes went through before the game actually commenced. This tells us that we should never attempt to enter the real arenas of life until we have gone through the necessary preparation to win. If we enter an arena without preparation, we better be ready to spend some time recuperating, because we are headed for a beating!

Winners are those who have trained and prepared themselves. Then, as now, athletic “scouts” would go out into the communities to look over all the young athletes. After finding a promising athlete, the scout would issue him an invitation to the training camp. At camp, the athletes were introduced to bodybuilders, trainers, and others who were skilled at fighting and competition. The trainers would put the athletes through incredible routines to build both their bodies and their minds, for mental alertness was deemed to be equally important to physical fitness.

Timothy knew all about the manner in which professional athletes were trained. This was common knowledge during his day. Everyone was familiar with the strict, regimented training that athletes went through in order to compete. Therefore, Paul’s statement on “striving for the masteries” didn’t require a lot of deep contemplation in order for Timothy to know exactly what the apostle was telling him.

Rather than moan and complain about how hard it had become to serve God, it was time for Timothy to change his way of thinking. If he was to be a professional and not an amateur in the Kingdom of God, he needed to see all his challenges as opportunities to use his faith, exercising himself under the most strenuous circumstances and thus developing himself to handle the greater tasks that were still ahead of him.

Although Timothy was facing real hardships in the present, he would still have to face additional hardships in the future. Therefore, rather than let his current circumstances pass without benefiting from them, he needed to view his present challenge as an opportunity to train and prepare for the future. If he could pass this test, he could pass any test!

What test are you facing today, friend? What has this time of hardship revealed about your own level of commitment? Are you as committed as you thought you were, or have you discovered that you are much softer spiritually than you realized? Rather than go forward in life in that soft condition, don’t you think it would be a good idea for you to look at this time in your life as an opportunity to get tougher and to grow stronger in the Lord?

I guarantee you — Satan hates every believer who dares to shine the light of God’s Word into places previously held hostage in darkness. If you decide to be one of those committed believers and to endeavor to do exactly what God has told you to do, Satan will be very alarmed by your obedience. He may try to stop you, throwing obstacles in your path that you never dreamed could happen to you. If you haven’t mentally and spiritually prepared yourself to be strong, these attacks of the enemy may overwhelm you.

Don’t you think it’s time for you to decide whether you are a professional or an amateur in God’s Kingdom? If you are a professional, it’s time for you to change your mental outlook on life and then get busy training and preparing so you can win every one of your future competitions!

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My Prayer for Today

Lord, I want to be strong enough to overcome any situation I’ll ever face in life. Forgive me for sitting around and wasting valuable time that I could have used to train and prepare myself to be spiritually fit. I’m sorry I’ve allowed myself to be lazy at times, and today I am making the decision to throw myself into spiritual preparation. I have decided to strive for the masteries and make my life count! Holy Spirit, please help me become everything Jesus intends for me to be and to make the changes in my mental outlook that are required for me to become a winner in life.

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

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My Confession for Today

I confess that I am serious about staying fit spiritually. I refuse to let laziness be a part of my life. I reject any temptation to moan, groan, and complain about how hard life is. I choose instead to see every event in life as an opportunity to flex my spiritual muscles and to become stronger in the Lord!

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

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Questions to Answer

1. What situations are you facing right now that you could use to flex your spiritual muscles and grow stronger in your walk with the Lord?

2. Rather than moan and complain about how hard things have become in your life, is it time for you to change the way you are thinking? If you want to live like a professional and not an amateur in the Kingdom of God, isn’t it time for you to see all your challenges as opportunities to exercise your faith?

3. Rather than let this present circumstance pass without providing you any benefit in life, don’t you agree that you need to view it as an