All my life I’ve been in training of some sort. I once had to answer the question: “How many years have you attended school?” I started adding them up: K-12 = 13, college = 4, seminary = 3, PhD = 6. Total = 26! Good grief! At that point almost half my life had been spent in school. I enjoyed getting “edu-ma-cated.” From childhood I was involved in many sports – football, track, basketball, weight training, soccer, tennis, golf – and attempted to learn a few musical instruments: cello, piano, and trumpet. Marriage, parenting, vocation, home ownership/maintenance, traveling, hobbies, shopping, eating well, cooking, finances, computer, relationships, and life skills involve training. Every activity entails physical skills honed, intellect sharpened, emotions directed, and attitude disciplined so that something can be accomplished.
I think I’ve learned a few things about training. One thing I know, training never stops. As long as we’re alive, we’re preparing ourselves in this life and for the one to come.
For me, and perhaps you as well, the most challenging area of training is the inner person. Our fat and lazy soul or our wounded and scared heart are hidden from us. However, we see them when we curiously say something hurtful or disappointedly react in anger when we don’t get our way. And we see only if we are not miserably blinded to our faults, a condition that plagues each one of us.
Perhaps that explains why there are 5 terms having to do with training in the New Testament. One term can’t capture the full scope of what it means to be involved in the process of training. Nor can one term address the integrative nature of training that is mandatory to effectively change us.
Paideia (“pedagogy;” discipline, training, instructing)
- Ephesians 6.4 parents, don’t provoke your children to anger, but nurture them in the discipline and admonition of the Lord
- Acts 7.22: Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.
- Acts 22.3: Paul was educated at the feet of Gamaliel
- 2 Timothy 3.16 Every scripture is God-breathed and profitable for…instruction in righteousness
- Titus 2.11-12 For the grace of God has appeared to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in this present age
The most often and comprehensive use of paideia is found in Hebrews 12.1-11. To properly understand this passage, you must remove from your mind the idea of discipline as punishment like a spanking for doing something wrong. Think instead of discipline as a process of training that includes instruction, correction, breaking habits, regular practice, new challenges, and battling your desires and preoccupations. Think what it would take to train for a (spiritual) triathlon where Jesus is your trainer. That’s what the writer is talking about.
…run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus…Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding of blood…”My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves…It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them…For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he (the Father) disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to this who have been trained by it.
Gumnatzo (“gymnasium;” to exercise)
- 1 Timothy 4.7 Exercise yourself to be God-like.
- Hebrews 5.14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil
- Hebrews 12.11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Sophronitzo (to train someone in self control)
- Titus 2.3-4 Older women…are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children…
Katartitzo (to complete, finish, equip)
- Luke 6.40 A disciple is not above his teacher; but everyone when he is fully trained (“has been fully perfected”) will be like his teacher
Katacheo (“catechism;” to inform, instruct)
- Acts 18.25 He (Apollos) had been instructed in the way of the Lord.
From these terms we conclude that training involves:
- Discipline – obedience to effective external or internal standards or rules
- Instruction – communicated information
- Exercise – to engage in regular practice that brings about change
- Equipping – effective tools used as means towards an end
- Information – appropriate data for the issue being addressed
- Perfection – a standard which though unreachable is motivation to try
- Receptivity (assumed) – a willingness to accept and participate in the training process
Each and every element is needed as we strive towards what it is we’re trying to accomplish. We cannot rely on a single element for our training. This is perhaps the MAJOR issue with Christians becoming more like Christ.
We rely far too much on information alone, believing that if we simply think about the right information we can become more like Christ. Sorry! You cannot think your way to godliness. You need to experience all aspects of training to become like Christ.
Thoughts About These Elements of Training
Information and instruction is worthless unless carried out.
Training involves experiential action. You are not really trained by reading a book, watching a video or listening to a speaker. You are trained by doing. Every pianist, linguist, athlete, computer programmer, and mechanic knows this to be true. It’s educators and Christians who believe that listening to a lecture or sermon equals knowledge. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Discipline is much more than correction or punishment.
Discipline is a process of training including information, instruction, direction, correction, and practice,
Training is a process. Wise people know (experience) this. Wise Solomon reminds us:
By mere words a servant is not disciplined, for though he understands, he will not respond (Proverbs 29.19).
We are to respond to God’s instruction not simply hear it. St. James (1:19-25) reminds us:
Know this, my beloved brothers, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. Bu the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
We live in deception when we do not do what we’re instructed to do. I’m as guilty as anyone. Don’t we deceive ourselves into thinking we’re OK when we listen to sermons but do nothing about what we hear? It’s especially dangerous to read Jesus’ teaching since he’s constantly challenging us to difficult practices and ways of living.
Our souls and bodies deeply long to be healed and strengthened by effective spiritual and physical training. Yet, we apathetically sit and soak in cunning comfort. While fat and sassy we’ve convinced ourselves we’re fit and trim.
Church is to provide a process of training; a gymnasium for our holistic development in Christ. Sadly, the modern church has become about many other extraneous things. It has strayed from its commitment to discipline us to God-likeness. Christians are left floundering in ineffective programs, superfluous sermons, and shallow relationships because leaders and people don’t really know how to become like Christ.
It’s my hope that the Way of the Warrior can provide the practical framework that’s desperately needed for Christians who are truly committed to godliness.
This week, wrestle with your understanding of training.
- Are you relying too much on one element in the process? Which one?
- Are you open to a fuller experience of “training yourself to godliness?” Why or why not?
Comment below if you have questions or want me to pray with you about your training.