Trained for Competition

Hebrews 5: 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

I have many memories of sitting in cold arenas watching my son’s ice hockey practises.  These were generally elite teams so the coaches took the practises very seriously and spent significant time on a variety of specific drills.  The coaches had typically played at a high level themselves and were skilled.

One drill I remember watching, over and over again, was the breakout.  This is a skill required for each team, particularly when a team has a power play (meaning the other team has a penalty and plays one player short).  Defensemen circle behind the net in a specific pattern, forwards leave the zone on a specific angle waiting for the puck to arrive flush on their stick.  These drills get increasingly complex as coaches introduce an opposing line who attempts to foil the other team.  By introducing countless scenarios in practise, when it comes to game time, the players are not surprised by, or unaware of, the tactics of the opposition.  They are in fact ready to perform at the highest level.

Paul in his letter to the Hebrew church was really suggesting something quite similar spiritually.  When you read the above scripture in context you see Paul rebuking some in the church who, as Paul says: “ought to be teachers” and should be eating solid spiritual food, but instead they need milk like a newborn infant.

“But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Heb.5:14).  The ancient Greek word for “constant use” is hexis and its real meaning is habit and by implication practice.  You get the picture of mature Christians who have got to this place, not by any special gift from God, but rather by diligent training.  Like the hockey player who faces a situation in a game which they have experienced hundreds of times in a practise, the Christian who immerses himself in the word of God is ready for the challenges of life.

Practically speaking, when I am challenged by life, I am constantly thinking back to specific scriptures or stories in the Bible.  For instance, in order to repair a relationship, I recently had to humble myself and accept full responsibility despite only having a minor role in the issues.  It helps me to think back to the story in 2 Samuel 16 of Shimei cursing King David and pelting stones and David and his officials.  One of David’s warriors insisted that this “dead dog” should not be doing this and requested that he be allowed to cut off his head.  But David in great humility said that if the Lord told him to do it then who was he to intervene.  “So David and his men continued along the road while Shimei was going along the hillside opposite him, cursing as he went and throwing stones at him and showering him with dirt”. (vs 13).

Had I not been trained with solid food from Bible stories and scriptures as this one, had I not been encouraged by men like David, I would always react in my sinful flesh rather than in a manner consistent with the life of Jesus Christ.  How about you?  Are you training yourself in the scriptures to be ready for the challenges of life, or are you one who ought to be a teacher, but instead are still feeding on milk?

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