by Roger Alcaraz
In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. That’s 40 hours a week for almost five years of practicing. And if you’ve ever listened to a pianist who has practiced for that long, you can instantly see (or hear) the fruit of all that practice.
Whether or not Malcolm’s statement is accurate, I think most people would agree that if we want to master something, it’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of discipline. And what’s great about the internet is that you can see the wide variety of skills people have mastered to the point where it seems like just about everything has been mastered by someone. Whether it’s the piano or juggling or cup stacking or rubix cube, they have all been mastered.
But I have yet to see any man or woman achieve mastery over one area in particular: the flesh. No one has mastered the flesh. And we can’t say it’s because nobody has tried. Religious people all over the world have spent their whole lives trying to be perfect and trying to subdue every sinful thought and desire of the flesh, but to no avail.
This is true even when it comes to just the tongue, one of the smallest parts of the body,
James 3:8 tells us that “no human being can tame the tongue.” You can try for 10,000 hours. You can try for 10,000,000 hours. You will never master the tongue, let alone the rest of your flesh. Your tongue lies, gossips, and slanders. Your eyes lust. Your heart envies. Your hands steal and murder. And all of it is beyond your ability to master.
Even so, as Christians, we understand that there is no more important pursuit than controlling the flesh and pursuing holiness. God is holy and man was created to worship him in holiness. Only then will man be satisfied. Thus, holiness is the most important and rewarding pursuit, yet it is also the most difficult pursuit.
Paul sometimes refers to athletics or uses athletic imagery like running, or disciplining his body. And he uses these imagery to teach about the Christian life. And it seems Paul saw a lot of similarities between athletics and Christianity in terms of the discipline and training needed.
Every athlete who wants to be great has two things worth mentioning. The first is sort of training ground where they are equipped to be able to perform their best. And the second is a coach, someone who will correct their mistakes and spur them on to greatness. If the Christian life can be compared to athletics, our training ground is the church–the place where we are equipped and ready to run the race of faith. But who is the coach? Is it Pastor Patrick? Is it me? Pastor Josh? We might be part of the coaching squad, but if you look at the really great athletes playing for the best teams, they have a head coach who guides the overall direction of the team, but then there are coaches underneath them that are more specialized, and then the best of the best athletes even have a personal trainer.
Usain Bolt is among the fastest men in history. So you might think, “There’s no way the fastest man alive needs a coach.” But if you thought that, you’d be wrong because even the fastest man alive has a coach. His name is Glen Mills and without him, Usain would still be fast, but not record-breaking fast.
Usain needs a coach in order to run excellently, but who is there to train up men and women in the church to live excellently? Where are the coaches and trainers of the faith? They should be you all.
You can read in Titus 2:2-6 that God’s design for the church is that the the older men and women live excellently themselves and then teach and train the younger men and women.
And you might be thinking that you’re too young, or too immature, or don’t know enough to disciple anyone. But no matter how young you are in the faith, you will always be able to find someone to disciple. So no matter who you are, you can help others to persevere in this life and run the race of faith excellently, and as you do, I believe you will be rewarded in this life and in the life to come.