Colossians 3:12-17 — Wrestling for Your Life (Muscle Memory, part 2)
I wrestled in high school. While making-weight each match seemed to be a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week obsession, I liked it. And practice—we practiced a lot.
As I reflect on life, there are so many areas where we naturally practice—especially the fundamentals. Consider:
If you play an instrument or sing, you can probably recount the hours spent practicing, which teachers you liked, and the endless repetition.
If you play a sport, how much sweat have you expended in practice? If it is a physically demanding sport, how much sweat did you expend to simply keep your body in shape so you would not be injured?
If you multiply numbers together, how many times to did you write out by hand your multiplication tables?
If you sketch or paint, how many practice sketches in a book have you made before you attempted the final product?
How many more examples can you add to this list?
I mentioned I wrestled. Practices were memorable. They always started with stretching, and these guys were more serious about it than other sports I had been in. Then there was some mild strength building work. Then there was skill building. The skill building was interesting. We spent hours doing repetitive wrestling moves: over and over.
I started as a novice. I was pinned and lost my first three matches. Then I lost my next three on points. Then, I won my next three on points. And finally, I won my last three; this time, I pinned my opponents. Now I am sure the schedule, and who my opponents were, played a big part in my quite linear record of improvement—yet there is a big life lesson.
Through practice, I developed muscle memory of those fundamental skills, and as I said, we practiced them, a lot.
When it came to the match, you mostly took yourself and your skills out onto the mat, and faced your opponent. The winner often won because of the combination of strength, skill, speed, stamina, and determination. Some of those matches seemed at the time like the longest 6 minutes of my life.
In the match, my body needed, in a split-second, to react—it needed muscle memory.
Why the long introduction on wrestling? Because I have been wrestling with Colossians, especially chapter 3. Wrestling not just as I write this blog post, but in life.
Let me be transparent. I wake up in the morning, and I have as one of my goals to conduct myself in a manner that would bless others and be pleasing to the Lord. At the end of the day, I reflect on how I did in following Jesus. Some days that reflection leads me to groan.
Look, if you are a follower of Jesus, you know he loves you. You know his love of you is secure. Your goal is to follow him. To live a life where people will know we are his followers because of how we love other followers of Jesus.
As I said, let me be transparent. Let me scan the list in chapter 3. I do this secure in Jesus’ love, yet what must I conclude? I have not yet put to death those things which I ought to have put to death. I do not consistently put on those things which I ought. I like the words “put on”. I put on clothes every day, I need to put on (perhaps put into my heart) these spiritual things every day.
I know if I did, I would be serving others in Jesus name, and I would have that peace which passes human understanding. I would be that winsome Christian who, by his presence, invites other people to be curious about Christ.
But it is more than that…putting these things to death is not so I am somehow a better person…no, putting these things to death is a matter of life-and-death.
And here is the spiritual truth. You and I are in a daily wrestling match. Satan seeks to destroy and devour you. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).
While it is a daily match, with God’s daily support, we grow that combination of strength, skill, speed, and stamina. It will take determination—but God has said in both the Old Testament and New that He will never leave us or forsake us. (Deuteronomy 31:6 and Hebrews 13:5).
Sports, music, art, math, my profession—these examples show me exactly what I must do master something—and it’s quite simple, really: practice, especially the fundamentals. (Please don’t confuse the word simple with easy… and I will write more to you about that in the coming year!)
Do you have examples in your life? Pick one of those examples, and then write down what you did to master it, and picture what that might look like for your walk of following Jesus.
And why do we do this? Not to work our way to God, but to walk with him daily. Can you see the difference? The first would be to try and earn His love through our actions, versus the second, which is responding to His love — the cross — with our actions.
In the next post, I will share how I have thought about the real world examples discussed in this post, compared them to what God’s Word says, and make some suggestions about what is a deep spiritual process.