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The Biggest Win (Part 1)

by Joshua Cooley

Book Excerpt from The Biggest Win: Pro Football Players Tackle Faith by Joshua Cooley

The “Why” of Spiritual Training

Every athlete must commit to a dedicated training program. But to be an athlete who glorifies God, you must take your training to a whole other level—an unseen, spiritual level.

But before we get into the “how” of spiritual training, we must understand the “why.” We need inspiration—not the stuff of pregame locker room hype or emotionally charged sidelines, but the kind of lasting motivation that can only be fueled by the Holy Spirit. Here are three reasons every Christian athlete should commit to serious spiritual training:

God ordained training. To understand the idea of spiritual training, we must understand the idea of sanctification. God doesn’t magically turn us into super-Christians who always make wise choices, speak kindly, and put others first. Instead, God ordained us to be “transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Sanctification is a gradual process of leaving sinful patterns and becoming more like Christ, and involves a beautiful, mysterious partnership between the Holy Spirit’s leading and our active obedience (Romans 8:13).

Scripture commands it. Scripture is filled with instructions for believers to actively pursue biblically based training, honing their spiritual abilities like Olympic athletes. Notice the commands and active verbs found in the following verses (emphases added):

  • Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1).
  • Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).
  • Abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
  • Strive … for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

Training ultimately brings blessings. God is not like that coach who enjoyed making you run laps as punishment. The spiritual training God requires might be challenging, but it is always meant for our good. Spiritual training increases our faith, joy, love, peace, and so many other godly characteristics that make us more like Christ and improve our lives. This training also helps us make earthly deposits into an eternal storehouse of heavenly riches (Matthew 6:19-20, Luke 18:22, 1 Timothy 6:19). The question becomes: Why wouldn’t we wholeheartedly embrace spiritual training?

Order your copy of The Biggest Win: Pro Football Players Tackle Faith by Joshua Cooley

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Joshua Cooley is a New York Times bestselling author, a sports writing veteran of 20-plus years, and a full-time children’s minister. His latest book is The Biggest Win: Pro Football Players Tackle Faith. He lives with his wife and four children in Durham, NC. Learn more at




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