Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"Training vs. Trying" Pt. 1

[I am continuing to journal the study questions from Chapter 3 of John Ortberg's The Life You've Always Wanted. For some "look ahead" at the book, I have posted the chapter titles at the index link at the bottom.]

There is an immense difference between training to do something and trying to do something. Spiritual transformation is not about trying harder but training wisely. Also the author wanted to point out, before examining spiritual disciplines, that spiritual disciplines are not:

  • a barometer of spirituality;
  • a way to earn favor with God;
  • necessarily unpleasant
The author's definition of a discipline:
Any activity we can do by direct effort that can help me to do what I cannot now do by direct effort

Main Questions

  1. Failure to train:
    1. Describe a time when you failed to train and discovered that no matter how hard you tried, you could not accomplish your goal.
    2. What did you learn from this experience?

  2. Answer: my two attempts at college; and actually high school, are an example.

    In high school, I didnt really have to work and learned no study disciplines. While I finished with good grades, they were not good enough for the level of school I wanted to go to (but hadnt earned) - or at least not and get a scholarship.

    In my first term of college, that lack of study disciplines gave home to roost - and the general lack of real effort and discipline in high school pushed me into "flunk out" mode in college.

  3. The author talks about the need to train for things like competing in an athletic event, learning an instrument or a new language, or running a business.
    1. What might happen if a person takes training seriously in one of these areas?
    2. Tell about a time you trained and prepared and how you felt when you were able to accomplish your goal.

  4. Answer: (1) they will excel on a higher level than would have been the case if they had not prepared and trained.

    (2) My second time in college, at 40, I excelled academically and earned my degree - because I took a study skills class before I started my academic subjects, and then applied, and honed, those skills as I went through school.

  5. The author points out that there are certain disciplines needed to train for a triathlon and a very different set of disciplines needed to prepare for a pie eating contest. Every area of life demands different disciples for growth. What are some of the core elements of a disciplined training regiment that will help you prepare for spiritual vitality and maturity?

  6. Answer: for me,
    • prayer with my wife (which I hardly do - but helps immensely),
    • time in the word,
    • accountability with other believers in small groups (both to help me and help them)
    • discussion to clarify and develop my ideas.
    • looking for ways to reach out and aide my neighbors - whether those that live with me or those I come in contact with every day.

    Background: The frog and the toad
    In the children's book Frog and Toad Together, the two central characters discover the limits of mere trying when Frog bakes a batch of cookies. "We ought to stop eating," they say, as they keep eating. "We must stop," they resolve, as they eat some more. "We need willpower," Frog finally says, grabbing another cookie.

    "What is willpower?" asks Toad, swallowing another mouthful.

    "Willpower is trying very hard not to do something you want to do very much," Frog says.

    Frog discusses a variety of ways to help with willpower-putting the cookies in a box, tying the box shut, putting it high up in a tree-but each time Toad points out (in between bites) that they could climb the tree and untie the box. In desperation, Frog finally dumps the remaining cookies outside on the ground: "Hey, birds!" he calls. "Here's cookies!"

    "Now we have no more cookies," says Toad sadly.

    "Yes," says Frog, "but we have lots and lots of willpower."

    "You may keep it all," Toad replies. "I'm going home to bake a cake."
  7. Describe a time you have felt like these two discipline challenged friends?

  8. Answer: oh so much. I continue to struggle with pornography; and it feels exactly like these two pastry eating animals.

  9. One definition of spiritual discipline is "any activity that can help you gain power to live life as Jesus taught and modeled it." Take time as a group to walk through the process below:

    1. To get a taste of how broad this is, work as a group to form a list of at least twenty examples of things you can do that will help you gain power to live the life Jesus intended.

    2. Answer:
      • Prayer
      • Service to others unselfishly
      • Being in God's word
      • Quiet time with God
      • Self-examination

    3. To help you think creatively and deeply, once you are out of ideas, try to come up with three more!
    4. Use your group's brainstorming list above to identify one new spiritual discipline you want to develop in your life.
    5. Tell your small, group members what new discipline you will be practicing and how you hope it will impact your spiritual life.
    6. Invite them to encourage you and pray for you in the coming weeks as you grow in this area.

  10. Psalms 127:1 Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain. 2 It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved {even in his} sleep.

  11. John talks about how being a parent can become God's training' school for spiritual maturity in a person's life.
    1. What are some of the unique spiritual lessons that can be learned in this season of life?
    2. What title would you give far the unique season of life you are in now and how can this season become a time of growth and formation in becoming all God wants you to be?

  12. Answers: (1)
    • patience,
    • ability to accept imperfection,
    • learning to guide change,
    • unconditional love towards another,
    • realization of our lack of control :-)
    • caretaking of what God has given us.

    (2) I am a parent - this example worked real well for me. I am also spiritually growing, and struggling (which is necessary for the growth). I am trying to get over a "hump" to "the next level" in my walk with God.

  13. We all know what it feels like to be rested and what it feels like to be very tired.
    1. How do you change for the worse when you are tired and how do you change for the better when you are rested?
    2. How might adjusting your present sleep patterns help you grow in your ability to love God and others?

  14. Answers: (1) I am more tempted when tired, and have less interest in fighting that temptation off.

    (2) Well, the above being reversed - also not staying up as late would give me more time away from the sources of the temptations and more time to spend on the things that truly matter.

Next in series: "Training vs. Trying" Pt. 2
Index to Series

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly