“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8
Paul’s letter to Timothy came quickly to mind when a friend was telling me about his commitment to the martial arts. "Nando” was best known as a fun-loving friend in our group of Navy flight students. We could all tell he had a serious side, though, when we studied together. We were in the library when he told me his view of Tae Kwon Do was “almost religious” and that it helped him stay physically and mentally sharp. I knew Nando wasn’t a Christ follower, so I was a bit nervous as I shared Paul’s words that compared the value of spiritual and physical training. Like Paul, I wanted to give credit to my friend’s intense drive for his sport, but I really wanted him to know that training in godliness had eternal value.
Training has been an arena of epic highs and deep lows in my life. It was an amazing privilege to be an instructor in a squadron that trains Navy jet pilots. It was our mission to pass on all the required skills for flying: mental, physical, and even interpersonal ones, because no one really flies solo in the military. Where would we be without Air Traffic Control? Our flight training was meant to develop a wide range of abilities, and it took a lot of dedication and teamwork to send qualified naval aviators to the Fleet.
I experienced some extra training from my Heavenly Father when I failed to qualify in landing on the aircraft carrier, both early on and much later in my Navy career. In the latter case, my job as a future leader of the squadron was in jeopardy when I “DQ’d.” The process of going back through training to re-qual was very humbling, but it gave me a serious appreciation of the intensity needed in training. Don’t make any assumptions about how prepared you are. Train your thoughts to be ahead of what your body will need to do. Get candid feedback about your performance. These were a few lessons that I learned on my way back to the boat…where I was able to qualify.
I had done wrong a number of things wrong in my training, and some of them were spiritual. God revealed my pridefulness and confronted me with my own “hidden sin of Achan.” Joshua Chapter 7 was the topic of the sermon the very next Sunday! The Lord was gracious to restore me in my professional and personal life as I trusted Him to train me in godliness. In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul wrote how he was “straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Phil 3:13b-14.
Anyone who follows Christ can look forward to some incredible training experiences. Stick with it. It’s worth it. Trust the Holy Spirit. He loves us enough to deal directly with our character, both for the good of our present lives and the life to come.
Blessings, Ben (AKA "Chevy" to my Navy friends)