Lessons from Our Coach

sand_floorMy previous blog described the first steps in connecting with our ultimate Life Coach, the Holy Spirit. Today’s topic is the ongoing training program. Unlike earthly coaches, the Spirit rarely speaks with an audible voice. Most of us will never hear Him, this side of heaven.

Many times, I’ve wished that God would just tell me what to do! He has all the answers; why won’t He just give them to me? Gradually, I’ve come to believe that He is less interested in seeing the “right” outcome to my situation than in seeing the right understandings growing in my mind. He wants me to develop good judgement, and that can only happen when I use my judgement — making decisions by applying my own intelligence and conscience to the facts as I understand them.

Does this mean God expects us to flounder through life without His guidance? Not at all!

In the movie, Karate Kid (the 1984 version), the student, Daniel, reports for his first karate lesson with Mr. Miyagi. Expecting to practice kicks, punches and blocks, Daniel is taken aback when Miyagi assigns him menial chores such as painting fences, sanding floors and waxing cars. After slaving away for days, Daniel quits in frustration. That’s when Miyagi shows him that the chores have been building muscle memory for defensive blocks.

In a similar way, God’s lessons often come with few words and lots of hard work. His wisdom is far more than we can absorb in a day, a year or a lifetime. We need to prepare ourselves to receive each tiny revelation as it comes along.

God has provided us with tools to receive His guidance in proportion to our readiness to use it. He expects us to use the tools. That’s part of the training.

What has he given us? In addition to our built-in conscience, we have our reasoning skills and our emotions. We have His Word, provided through scripture. We have the Holy Spirit to enlighten our reading of the Word. We have people in our lives who can act as good examples and mentors. Finally, we have the “community of believers” — Christians who join together for mutual encouragement, whether in a church setting or a home Bible study.

Let’s take a closer look at these tools.

CONSCIENCE- This is the relentless watchdog of our motives. We can deceive ourselves by drowning out its voice, but the conscience itself is never deceived. It knows when we violate our own understanding of right and wrong. We have two duties regarding conscience: First, we should always obey it. Second, we should work to refine our understanding of right and wrong, so that our comprehension is as close as possible to God’s perfect knowledge.

REASON- Jesus never asked for blind obedience. He spent years helping his disciples understand who God was and what He wanted from them. Then he turned them loose to use their creativity in spreading the message. He expects us to pursue God’s will with all of our abilities. Reason is one of them.

EMOTIONS- It has been said that “Hope is a lousy guide, but a good companion.” We should never let emotions take precedence over conscience, but our emotions can offer vital clues. If you are about to say “yes” to something and your stomach feels like a live squirrel is trapped inside, you may need to stop and think it over.

SCRIPTURE- The Bible is a complex document, containing books written over a span of 1,500 years by more than 40 authors. It’s good to have help in understanding the historical context of each book. Bible-study groups, classes, books, and DVD’s are available. (Consult your Mentors and your Community of Believers regarding the best resources.) One of the great things about the Bible is that it’s full of people just like us — people with egos and appetites, hopes and fears. People who search for God. People who run away from God. By reading their stories, we get glimpses into our own hearts and into the heart of God. For someone new to Bible-reading, the book of Mark is a good starting place. It tells the story of Jesus in a simple and straightforward way. The book of Acts describes the growth of the early church, with some close parallels to our experiences today.

THE HOLY SPIRIT- Ask the Spirit for guidance every day, many times a day. Ask especially for help in understanding the scriptures. Like a good coach, He won’t reveal it to you all at once. He’ll bring a particular verse to light just when you need it. Seek, and He will help you find.

MENTORS- Spend time with people who are serious about following God’s will. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance in finding good mentors. Seek opportunities to serve, and you may find yourself serving alongside someone wise. Be cautious. Take time to get to know a potential mentor. Good mentors won’t try to run your life. They know that they don’t have all the answers. They will sincerely share their own struggles and try to help you understand God’s principles so you can make wise decisions.

THE COMMUNITY OF BELIEVERS- During his time on earth, Jesus gathered groups of believers around himself. After he was taken up to heaven, his followers “…continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and prayer.” (Acts 2:42) The tradition of gathering together persists to this day, and for good reason. God reveals himself most fully when we seek Him in the company of other believers. When you attach yourself to a community, you’ll find it full of all kinds of odd characters that you wouldn’t choose to associate with for any other reason. This is perfectly normal. God wants us to learn to love, and where’s the challenge in loving people who are just like yourself? Each person in the community is a blessing, and we need to remember to count them!