The organ of perception
Although the apostle Paul battled physical issues, he used sports analogies several times in his epistles. He used running, boxing, gladiator, and wrestling analogies as well as athletic training, places, rules, and prizes. An athlete must gain skill, strength, and experience to compete, and he must play by the rules to be a champion. Someone who is not properly prepared will fail under the pressure of competition.
Christianity is not a sprint. It is a marathon. "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift...(Ecc 9:11)." The turtle showed the hare this. After the battle of Absalom was over, Ahimaaz wanted to run to bring the news to king David (2Ki 18). He was a fast runner, and was eager to use his speed; but he did not know the full message that was to be delivered. Another man named Cushi did, although he was not as fast. Joab sent Cushi. Ahimaaz kept insisting, so Joab let him go too. Ahimaaz got to David first, but could not deliver all the news. Cushi arrived second, but was able to tell the king what he needed to know. Enthusiasm is good, but the ability to complete the mission is better.
Our walk with God not an event. It is a process. It takes a lifetime, and even then it is not completely done. We should always be in a growth pattern. When we stop growing spiritually, we start dying. There is no neutral or idle gear. We should be desirous to grow, but not in such a hurry that we try to skip steps in the process. Spiritual maturity does not come quick or easy. We should be careful not to miss anything along the way, or we will have to go back and get it later. We need every lesson and experience God plans for us so we can become who God wants us to be.
In Hebrews 5 Paul talks about this. In verses 7-9 he even describes how Jesus Christ in His humanity had to go through this. When Jesus was 12, he confounded people who had studied the Bible all their lives (Lk 2:46-47). Yet even the Messiah subjected Himself to the process, went home with His parents, was subject to them, and "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man (Lk 2:51-52)." Then Paul told the Hebrews that they were spiritually immature and not ready for deeper things. They should have moved on, but were still working on the basics (Heb 5:11-14). Verse 14 says ,"But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." Strong's Concordance and Thayer's Lexicon say the word translated senses here means "an organ of perception". It is defined as the "faculty of the mind for perceiving, understanding, judging." It is as though our spiritual man has an an organ with which we relate to God. Paul said mature people have exercised this organ until they can discern good and evil. The word translated exercised here is the word for gymnasium. If we want to grow spiritually and mature we must go the gym and work out our spiritual man in prayer, devotion to the scriptures, and church attendance. We do not get in shape sitting around eating junk food all the time. As an athlete changes his diet and behavior to get himself in shape, so we must change what we feed our spiritual man and put the work in to get into a place of spiritual strength and maturity. An athlete does not start his first day running 26 miles or bench pressing 500 pounds. He starts out with what he can handle, and works his way up. We should be consistently increasing our spiritual capacity by exercising daily. This is how we become who God wants us to be. It is good to have special moments and spiritual high points, but the bulk of our growing actually occurs on a day to day basis. It is better to pray and read the Bible some every day consistently over time than to have spiritual binges followed by times of inactivity. For example, most people will not pray for 2 hours in one day, but if you pray 15 minutes a day for 7 days, you will have prayed almost 2 hours in that week. "Give us this day our daily bread (Mt 6:11)" is better than trying to eat 5 loaves in one sitting, and then not eating again for a week. This approach may not be as exciting in the moment, but it produces the lasting results we are looking for.