It's as true today as it has ever been. It's a law of life; one of those immutable principles that won't change no matter how much we pray about it or wish it weren't so. I've believed it, preached about it, and today I lived it. It goes like this: "You can't gain by trying what takes training to accomplish." Countless people have tried to be holy in a hurry, living carelessly, hoping that somehow when faith and courage are needed it will miraculously appear. It seldom does. Others have hoped that trying hard in a relationship will be an adequate substitute for self-discipline, compassion, and commitment when hard times come.
I have a friend who is passionate about physical fitness. Years ago he had gotten a blood clot behind his knee so I visited him in the hospital. "What were you doing when this happened?" I asked.
"Squats," he replied.
"And how much were you lifting?"
"Maybe you should knock it back to 300."
My friend is almost as old as I am, and is rock solid. Grab him by the arm, and there is no squish at all. If I went to the gym with him and loaded 300 pounds on the bar, no matter how hard I tried, there's no way I could manage to get it off the rack. That kind of feat takes training, not trying.
It's been a busy week. I've been plowing driveways, visiting in nursing homes, varnishing woodwork. But I haven't been practicing my bass. Today in band rehearsal the truth of my old axiom was more than adequately demonstrated. I couldn't do anything right. Runs that I had down pat last fall were to me like hieroglyphics on the sheet music. There's no way around it; if I want to do the job, I have to put in the time.
It's true in the realm of the spirit as well. Daily Scripture and prayer are like practicing an instrument - essential if we want to master the subject. Only the subject matter is not a song; it's salvation; my relationship with God in Jesus Christ. It isn't automatic, and it isn't learned overnight. Like regular practicing of my bass, if I want to be proficient in faith, I must put in the time, day after day. If I don't, I'll find myself tripping up in places where I should know better. If I do, I'll be able to sail through it with ease. After all, it all boils down to training, not trying. I am thankful tonight for this humbling musical life lesson.