One of the staples of modern film is that of the training montage. If you are unfamiliar with the term, a training montage is that moment of a movie when the hero, or team of heroes, about to face some great challenge, begin training, and in a matter of movie minutes, complete their training. The montage, a series of quick scenes all edited together, tells the encapsulated story of this training, and lets us, the movie’s audience, know that the hero(s) are now quite ready. Maybe at the beginning of the montage they were poorly trained, and poorly prepared, but now that they have been properly and thoroughly trained they are ready for anything.
The original Rocky, released in 1976, is often credited as making this particular mode of storytelling popular, especially in sports movies. Faced with the challenge of lasting round after round with the better trained, better prepared Creed, Rocky has to get himself ready for the big event. And so he trains, and the movie scenes flash by, showing him running, jumping rope, running, punching, running some more and eventually, the music swelling, the scene ends with him running up the 72 steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He is triumphant, the music is triumphant, and everyone watching knows that Rocky is ready for the fight. Interesting fun fact: so iconic is this movie scene that the actual steps in Philadelphia are now affectionately knowns as “The Rocky Steps.”
A training montage is made effective, in part, because the movie audience buys into the idea that there is a big event coming for which the hero must be prepared. Likely, we have seen evidence of their lack of readiness prior, and we understand that unless they somehow improve, they are never going to be ready. Real training, in the real world, normally takes a lot of time and dedication. Luckily, through the use of movie magic, the training montage manages to cut through all the dull business that frequently goes along with actual training and show us the endeavor in a way that is exciting. So exciting, in fact, that more than one individual has left a theater excited, eager to start training for themselves.
Yet, most people, no matter how pumped they were to watch some sort of training montage in a movie, are rarely motivated enough to start doing similar sorts of training at home. This is partly because actual training is hard, frequently boring, and almost always time-consuming. It is also partly because most of us don’t actually have some big event to prepare for. If I am never going to fight an actual Apollo Creed in real life, then, I ask myself, do I really need to do all that jump-roping, punching beef, and running up and down steps? Likely not.
Yet, that being said, there is a big event coming up in every person’s life, one for which they should definitely get prepared, and one where proper training has ongoing value. The apostle Paul speaks to this when he writes to Timothy, contrasting physical training with spiritual training: “Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8; ESV)”
If an athlete is well served by being ready for their upcoming competition, how much more will we be well served by being ready for that moment when we stand before God and give an account for what we have done in the body. On that day, spiritual readiness will be the only thing that will matter.
Unfortunately, there is no editor which, through the magic of film will be able to quickly splice together some sort of training montage for us so that we are suddenly prepared. Spiritual training takes time and effort, “constant practice (cf. Hebrews 5:14) and discipline of the body (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:27). God tells us we should meditate upon His word daily (cf. Psalm 1:2), and be diligent to be found by His son without spot or wrinkle (cf. 2 Peter 3:14).
None of us start out prepared. Sin stains our soul. We are weak and tempted, lacking the spiritual discipline and the spiritual understanding that God wants us to have. But we don’t have to stay that way. We can find forgiveness in Jesus, and in God’s word we can find all we need to equip ourselves for every good work (cf. 2 Timothy 3:17). But it is going to take time and commitment on our part if we are going to be ready for that day. We are going to have to actually do the training for the big event.
If you are motivated to be ready for that day, the church of Christ invites you to worship and study with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions or comments, we invite you to share them with us at chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.