I admire well disciplined athletes, especially Olympians who compete on a global scale. Watching a 100 meter sprinter blast off the blocks and run the distance under 10 seconds spikes my adrenaline.

When my daughter, Anabelle, was in seventh grade she tried out for the varsity track team at her school. To her surprise and ours she didn’t just make the team, she broke the school records for the 100 meter and the 200 meter sprint–as a middle schooler. She even qualified for states.

Her follow up year was much anticipated. How would she do a year later? She did better. She set new records. But she didn’t “progress” as much as she or her coaches thought she would. I mean, she did place 26th in the state in the 100 meter and was the only middle schooler running against primarily juniors and seniors, but she could’ve finished even better.

The reason for her “underwhelming” performance isn’t a mystery: She didn’t train until the first day of preseason practice. 

Olympic athletes are endowed with talent, but rarely does a world champion walk out without great discipline preceding their efforts. Great accomplishments are the result of great disciplines.

Paul had this in mind when he wrote his young “talented” disciple Timothy.

Do not neglect the gift you have… practice these things, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress…
— 1 Timothy 4:14-15

Paul also uses the words “train” vs. 7, “toil and strive” vs. 10 “devote” vs. 13 and “persist” in vs.16. Why was Paul using such strong language? He was reminding Timothy to continue to cultivate the gifts and abilities God had entrusted to him. Paul was saying, "Stay in shape; don’t wait until the moment you need to run. Train daily!"

This strong charge from Paul provides a glimpse of what stewardship with spiritual gifts and natural abilities looks like. Here are three takeaways that may help you work this out: 

  1. Identify what natural and spiritual gifts God has entrusted to you. Consider asking someone older and more seasoned in life and their faith to watch your life and share affirmation about what God is doing in you. 
  2. Assess if there’s been any “neglect” with these gifts and repent – change your mind – about how you “practice and devote” yourself in these areas. 
  3. Decide and prioritize what kind of training will fully develop what God has given you. 

Anabelle placing 26th in the state was not a failure. It was an amazing accomplishment. But I, her coaches, teammates and she all wondered how fast she could have been if she had trained more. Don’t leave the “training for godliness” to chance. 

In closing, remember that we’re recipients of grace. We don’t earn favor or merit with God due to our efforts. As Dallas Willard said,

Grace is opposed to earning not effort.” May we hear Paul’s charge in our ears, “Do not neglect what you’ve been given.

 

-- Chris Arrmfield, Lead Pastor of CITYLIGHTS

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