Back in school, I was on the wrestling team. It was the only sport I took part in, and I did so all 4 years I was there. That's not to say I was any good, though. (Honestly, I stunk.) When I first joined the team, I was clueless as to just how much hard work, sweat, and pain I was taking on. Here's how it started. In the fall, we'd kick off with about a month of what was called conditioning. We'd get out of class and get changed into shorts and T-shirts, and head upstairs to the main classroom area. It was one big square, with halls all around. The coaches had it all figured out. 7 laps was 1 mile. We'd start out with a mile, and after a few days, we'd have to start increasing. Eventually, we hit 5 miles by the season's end.
After all the running, we'd walk down to the wrestling room, where we'd run more, drop and do push-ups, sit-ups and down-ups (if it sounds painful, there's good reason), do a hopping drill on plywood boxes of varying heights, and slam each other around. If you came in to conditioning out of shape (and I was), you were in pain for weeks. My legs felt like they were on fire.
But it all helped us. It got us into shape for a sport that really is harder than it looks. And forget the cartoon-like WWE junk. This was real wrestling that drained you physically and left you to finish the match on nothing but pride and willpower. Other sports have similar training periods to whip the athletes into shape. But God too has His own time of conditioning. I'm in that time now.
Now, I pray daily, and I read the Bible daily, too. I spend time with the Lord, and I worship him daily, not just on Sunday. I love Jesus, and I want to get as close to Him as possible. But these past few weeks, I've been driven to kick the study and prayer up, and to spend more time praying, and that more fervently. The only reason I seem to be coming to is that God is preparing me, conditioning me, if you will, for some kind of contest, some kind of match and battle yet unseen. I know that I have a pastor's call. My heart is to shepherd God's people, and I know that there is a church out there God needs me to pastor. Just where is the current mystery. So, I've sensed the need to pull out the old textbooks from my internship courses from several years back. I have been reading and reviewing the New Testament Survey book, and even bought a used Old Testament Survey book I lost long ago on Amazon.com. I've been reading more from the theology stuff, and praying. God is running me on His track and in His wrestling room.
Scripturally, God seems to favor these training periods for the men He called. Moses spent 40 years taking care of sheep after his flight from the Pharaoh. Fitting, since God called him to be the shepherd of Israel that led them out of Egyptian slavery. God started David in training young, as an unnoticed shepherd boy watching his daddy's sheep. Eventually, David would become king, but not before undergoing God's training in fields, in caves, on the run. Let's not forget Elisha, the successor to Elijah, who spent time tending to the prophet. Then there is the Lord's Disciples, who spent more than 3 years in training under Jesus, learning from the Master of the Universe Himself. I could go on about Timothy and Titus, Paul's proteges, and John Mark, who learned under the Apostle Peter.
These are just some of those who underwent God's conditioning program. Everyone who desires to be used by God will endure it. Things may get intense, but if you are in it, stay there and let God do His work. Not only am I driven to study more, I am learning to deal with more pressures now. I'm learning the behind-the-scenes work that every pastor needs to know. Sometimes it hurts. But praise the Lord, I'm getting stronger.
Are you struggling through those spiritual push-ups? Feeling the burn of God's crunches? Are the down-ups you endure wearing you out? Keep up the training, friends, and don't let go. Let God build you up. He knows just where you need it, and He'll bring you to where He wants you.
Whether it's in a book or in bind, He has you right where He wants you.