Put In the Work

by Lester Young

The NFL’s offseason workout program has just begun, and all rabid football fans everywhere have fully recharged their hopes and dreams that this upcoming season will be the year their beloved team finally makes its championship run. (For those of you out there who are not ‘American’ football fans – rabid or otherwise – I beg your indulgence.) And why shouldn’t we be optimistic? After all, everybody starts out even – at this point, every team has just as good a shot to take the title as any other team has.

Did you get that? I want you to note that I didn’t say every team has the same chance of winning the championship at the start of the regular season, when real games actually begin. Nope, didn’t say that at all. What I did say was that every team has just as good a shot as every other at this point; that is to say, right now – at the beginning of offseason workouts.

What’s the difference? Quite literally, days and days, tons and tons, miles and miles of difference! When the games that matter roll around in September, would you consider the guy who just started getting into “playing” shape a couple of weeks beforehand to really be on equal footing with the player who’s already spent countless hours grilling his body in preparation during those long, hot spring- and summer days? How much farther ahead do you think he’d be? Days and days, tons and tons, miles and miles. As I’m sure you could guess, the million-dollar word in such a scenario would be Preparation.

There’s a well-known sports adage that says, “Championships are won in the offseason”. It was first coined by… er… umm… well, let’s face it, I don’t know who originally said it – but it’s true and it’s good, so I’m using it. We all intuitively know you can’t just stroll leisurely onto the field of competition against a highly-trained and motivated opponent and expect for anything to happen except you being carried back off.

A real champion begins laying the foundation for his or her championship long, long, looong before the ESPN-televised trophy-acceptance festivities ever are aired. His painstaking preparation takes place far from the spotlight, well prior to any games being played – so that when he finally gets an opportunity to face an opponent on the playing field, it’s already too late for that foe to beat him. The champion’s groundwork – or ‘grunt-work’ – is done absent the constant glare of cameras and the relentless scrutiny of reporters and the fawning admiration of fans. Yet because the general populace doesn’t see this prep-work going on right before their eyes, precious few of them know or even consider the rigorous ordeals and the “unreasonable” commitments the champion must embrace in order to excel in his craft.

Being a ‘spiritual’ champion is no different. We all have a race to run, a course to finish; and running your race with power is wholly dependent upon you putting yourself into training (2 Timothy 2:20-21, 4:7, Heb 12:1). Our opponent has been around a lot longer than we have; and even though he’s a totally defeated foe and severely limited in what he can actually do, he’s highly motivated and experienced in tripping people up and running all over whoever doesn’t know any better (1 Corinthians 10:13; Colossians 2:15; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 20:2). So know better. Know better! Put the work in to know better.

Put yourself into training. Develop the habit – the commitment – of spending quality time with your heavenly Father each and every day in His Word. Put in plain language: read your Bible daily. But don’t read quickly just so you can get through it; read slowly – digest and contemplate His Word and take notice of what His Spirit is saying to you personally about it. Take some time reading God’s Word and praying in the Holy Spirit each day.

If you think you don’t have the time… let’s see, how can I put this tactfully… yes, you do! Commitments often involve making adjustments, many of which can be somewhat uncomfortable. If you have to get up a little earlier, is that really too much to require of yourself? Remember, the last thing the devil wants is for you to open God’s Word and start spending quality time with Him on a consistent basis – and putting it off because “I’m just too tired or sleepy” is simply giving in his ploy.

Put in the work. Get in God’s Word and stay there. Make a decision to purposely believe and start saying what God says about you and your circumstances, and not what your circumstances are telling you (Romans 4:17-21; 2 Corinthians 4:13). The more you do it – and the more you hear yourself doing it – the easier it’ll become. Recall that faith comes by hearing – hearing God’s Word – even (especially!) if you’re the one speaking it (Romans 10:17). By consistently reading, hearing, speaking and praying God’s Word – and His Word is His Will – you’ll be filling yourself up with His power and presence (Psalm 22:3; 1 Corinthians 1:24). You’ll even begin noticing yourself stronger and more confident on the inside. Plus, you’ll be giving Him something to work with on your behalf: your faith – and you know He can literally do ‘wonders’ with that (Mark 11:22-24; Ephesians 3:20; Hebrews 11:1).

And just so you know that ‘putting in the work’ for a championship has always applied to everyone with no exceptions, I’ll leave you with this to ponder: What do you think Jesus was doing those first thirty years of His life here on earth? You know – that time when there were no cameras or reporters or fans or disciples following Him around chronicling everything He said and did, and thus leaving us with absolutely no record about Him (…except, of course, that one time toward the end of Luke 2 when His parents Mary and Joseph lost Him, not that I’m pointin’ fingers or anything. Speaking of which, I sometimes wonder what would’ve happened if Jesus’ parents had gotten all the home without Him [verses 44-45]. Can you imagine that conversation with the grandparents:

Grandma, upon hearing the news: “What, what, whaaat??? You LOST Him?!?? What do you mean you lost Him!?? How the heck do you ‘lose’ a Messiah???!!? Well you two just better go ‘find’ Him…….. and don’t even think about coming back here until you do!!!!” <Door slams as the two beleaguered parents leave, muttering back and forth as they go.> “Did you hear that, Herman?? They lost Him. Your children lost Him! I don’t even believe it!!! I just… Oy vey!!!

Grandpa Herman: “How come whenever they screw up they’re automatically my kids?!”

Grandma: “Herman, don’t make me come over there.”

But I digress…)

Actually, two specific verses of that chapter tell us all we need to know about what Jesus was doing during that time: As He grew up physically He also developed a stronger and stronger spirit and increased in wisdom until He was completely full – and concurrently His favor with both God and men continued to advance (Luke 2:40, 52). How did this happen? He spent time – lots of quality time – with God in His Word and in prayer. Stated simply, Jesus put in the work… and He put it in for thirty years.

Everybody wants the mastery, but everybody won’t do what’s necessary to ‘master’ – that is, they won’t commit to “win or nothing”. If you want excellence, then you’re going to have to strive for it as Paul exhorts (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Put in the work. Lay the foundation for your championship now. Put in the work. You’ve been given a race to run – we all have. You’re already in it, so you might as well be in it to win it (Isaiah 40:31; 1 Corinthians 9:24; Philippians 3:14; Hebrews 12:1). Put in the work now. Then when your foe steps in the way to challenge you, it’ll already be too late for him to beat you (1 John 5:4-5).

Put in the work!


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2 Comments to “Put In the Work”

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