The Mind-set of a Spiritual Athlete

The Mind-set of a Spiritual Athlete

    It was a beautiful May morning as the four of us headed south from the parking lot at Deep Gap on the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina. We had been planning this trip for months, plotting on a map how far we would hike each day and deciding where we would camp each night. On our first day, we were planning to hike fourteen-and-a-half miles before stopping at a campsite. By midmorning we realized that the day’s hike was harder than we had originally thought. The climbs were steeper and longer than they looked on the map.
    When we stopped for lunch, we had covered the right amount of distance, but we were tired. The afternoon hike was looking very long, yet we knew we needed to reach the campsite by suppertime. As we resumed our hike, our minds and bodies grew more weary. Because of the circumstances we were tempted to doubt, fall short, and stop early, yet we knew what we wanted to do. The question now was, were we going to be successful?
    As the day progressed, we began to encourage each other, recognizing that we needed to focus on the Word for this situation. We started quoting scriptures out loud to each other. Verses that came to mind were “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13) and “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). I Corinthians 9:27 and II Corinthians 9:8 were others. We also reminded each other that we had made a good plan and all we needed to do was to keep moving.
    So we continued to move, one step at a time, keeping the Word and our campsite in our minds. We reached the campsite on schedule, dropped our packs, took care of our feet, and began setting up camp and preparing supper. Later, we all rejoiced around the campfire, telling each other of our mental and physical victories. That night our sleep was sweet, and the next morning we set out hiking with strengthened believing.
    There are times in daily living that we are confronted with situations that push us mentally and/or physically. How do we handle them? On our hike we saw that our mind-set determined the outcome, enabling us to be successful. The Word of God gives clear direction on how to build a winning mind-set in life, so let’s look at some of these great truths to strengthen our believing walks.
    In the Old Testament, God’s people had to fight and defeat a physical enemy. They were soldiers of the Lord. In the Grace Administration today, our competition is not against a physical enemy. As born-again believers, we are in a spiritual competition. Ephesians 6:12 gives a vivid description of the wrestling match we are engaged in:
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places [from on high].
    God uses many figures of speech in the Bible to describe various aspects of our lives as His sons. The allegory of the athlete of the spirit is dominant imagery in the Church Epistles that describes the life and walk of a son of God. For spiritual athletes competing in the spiritual competition, the proper mind-set is just as essential as it was on our hike.
    As we compete, our renewed mind is the key to power. The renewed mind is the process of changing our thinking in order to line up with what the Word of God says. This is how we can be successful, how we can win.
Romans 12:2:
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what
is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
    “Transformed” is from the word in the Greek that is used to describe the change of a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly. This is the same kind of transformation we undergo as we renew our minds. Our lives become new in quality as we prove what is that good, acceptable, and perfect will of God. We do not settle for defeat in any category of our lives—second place in the spiritual competition is not an option!
    I Corinthians shows important aspects of the mind-set of a champion.
I Corinthians 9:24-26:
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they
do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air.

    “So run, that ye may obtain.” This is the only desirable outcome. No one goes into a competition wanting to lose. Therefore, we put forth the effort necessary to be victorious. The word “striveth” in verse 25 means to compete in the contest, giving your last ounce of expended strength with the intention of winning. That’s the mind-set of a champion. We go into the spiritual competition knowing what needs to be done, and we compete, giving it our all. We hold nothing back. We compete planning to win!…

This is an excerpt from the January/February 2004 issue of The Way Magazine.
Copyright© 2004 by The Way International. All rights reserved.
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