Discipleship Training
is like Training for a Marathon

Illustrated with Inspirational Sports Quotes

One of our Short Devotions

Just like training for a marathon or a football game, discipleship training requires practice. People learn by doing. No one becomes like Jesus by merely thinking about him.
cornhusker flag
In August 2008, Nebraska football player Phillip Dillard was quoted in the Omaha World Herald on what Bo Pelini and the other defensive coaches at Nebraska were expecting. “They’re not really trying to correct stuff from last year; they’re just coaching their defense. They tell you what you’re supposed to do and you’re supposed to do it."


photo courtesy of Kiley

Learn by practicing

Is learning how to live the Christian life any different? Jesus told his disciples what to do and they were supposed to do it. Of course they didn’t do things perfectly at first, and neither do we. That’s why we practice. The key to spiritual growth is more than learning Bible facts. We mature by practicing a godly lifestyle. Let's examine how Jesus encouraged the twelve to practice what they learned from him.

  • Jesus healed (Matthew 4:23) then sent the apostles out to heal.(Matthew 10:1)
  • Jesus demonstrated his miraculous power in feeding 5,000
    (Matthew 14:15-20) and then presented a similar task to the apostles.(Matthew 15:32-33)
  • Jesus modeled a consistent prayer life (Matthew 14:23) and then asked the apostles to pray in the garden. (Matthew 26:40)

Just do what I'm told?

I'm sure you can think of many more examples. The post is: Jesus expects us to do what he says. That is the object of Christian disciplines. Paul taught the Philippian christian in the same way - Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, put into practice. (Philippians 4:9)

Just like training for a marathon, training in Christian disciplines is necessary. What are these disciplines? They are the practices that bring us more in fellowship with each other and obedience to Jesus. You know them - prayer, Bible study, service to others, worship, etc. Are you practicing them?

The infamous Rosie Ruiz

In 1981, Rosie Ruiz was the first woman to cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon. She achieved the third fastest time ever recorded for a female runner. But ironically, she was barely sweating. Race officials immediately began to question her victory and eventually she was disqualified. When the truth came out, it appears that soon after the race began, Rosie intentionally got off the course, took the subway to a point near the finish line, jumped back into the race and positioned herself to be the winner.

In the interview between Rosie and a sports reporter (before she was found out), a reporter asked Rosie, “As you prepared for the race, what kind of intervals did you run?” Rosie said, “What’s an interval?” Can you imagine a follower of Jesus asking, “What’s a spiritual discipline?"

marathon runners

photo courtesy of Paul Keleher

The key to spiritual maturity

US Marathoner, Frank Shorter said it best. Literally minutes after Frank finished second in the Montreal Olympics in 1976, a reporter asked him, “I know you must be disappointed with the silver. Do you plan to go for the gold medal again in 1980?” Frank calmly looked at the reporter and said, “Well of course I wanted to win the gold medal. But the question I have to ask myself now is, ‘Will I commit myself to running 10 miles per day, every day, for the next 4 years?’”

The reporter was looking at the end result. Frank Shorter was looking at the process. He knew that there is a vast difference between commiting to running a marathon and training for a marathon. Discipleship training leads to spiritual maturity. There are no short cuts.

The Apostle Paul said it best

I have fought the fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. We aren't training for a sprint - we're training for a marathon!

Who are you training for a marathon?

Who are you discipling? What spiritual disciplines are you modeling and asking of your disciple? Jesus said, “A wise man hears my words and puts them into practice.”

Author: Paul Schlieker www.bible-study-lesson-plans.com


Discussion ideas for your small group or Sunday School class:

1. What skills are you currently practicing?

2. What practices did Jesus model for his apostles?

3. In what situations were the apostles asked to practice these Christian disciplines?

4. Just as any skill, some spiritual conduct comes more naturally to you than others. Name one Christian discipline that is easy for you to do.

5. Now name one spiritual discipline that you need to improve.

6. How has practicing godly behaviors brought you more into fellowship and obedience to Jesus?

7. Who will help you in your journey? Who is your spiritual mentor? Who are you mentoring? 8. Are you training for a marathon - in the Christian life?

What does Jesus ask of his disciple? Discover more in this Sunday School lesson.


To learn more about disciple-making in the 21st century, check out
Kingdom-Driven Discipleship.

Author:Paul Schlieker www.bible-study-lesson-plans.com

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Paul Schlieker, EzineArticles.com Platinum Author

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