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Training Not Trying

Milo of Croton was one of the most decorated athletes in the ancient world. In the 6th century BC, he won six Olympic wrestling titles and was renowned as one of the strongest men alive. It was said he could carry a bull Ox, rip apart trees with his bare hands, and snap a rope tied around his head by flexing. I’ve never tried that one, but I’m impressed.

When I was a husky pants wearing, not particularly strong kid, I used to work out with my dad. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t lift the weights he could. I couldn’t swim or run as fast as him. I couldn’t throw a baseball harder than him. In fact, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do what my dad could do. Milo, I was not.

To encourage me, my dad would tell me this story about when Milo was just a wee lad, he would carry a newborn calf to the top of a hill every day. As the calf grew, so did Milo. Day by day, he got significantly stronger as the calf became a cow. Incremental, progressive growth produces meaningful change when done consistently. The key for Milo wasn’t that he tried to lift an adult cow every day; he trained himself to do it.

So many people feel stuck in their life. Too often, we treat others coldly. We don’t think about their needs. We care mostly about ourselves. And many of us feel in our hearts that we should be better than we are. I think part (though not all) of our problem is that we try really hard, but we don’t train at all.

The Apostle Paul counseled Timothy, “train yourself to be godly. 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 4:7-8) And Jesus once told his disciples, “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” (Luke 6:40).

Today, the invitation is to stop trying so hard (to be kind, to be patient, to be loving, to be…whatever) and start training. Training leaves room for Grace, which is the actual mechanism of our change, while trying does not. Practice the wisdom and teaching of Jesus with the Holy Spirit and know that grace is greater than any of your mistakes.

Stephen is an Inspire Missioner in Kingsport, Tennessee, USA. This piece was first published as an article in the Kingsport Times News in February 2023.

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