The Grace & Truth Blog

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Hell Week

When I was in high school, every August my football team would start our pre-season training, which was affectionately, dubbed “Hell Week”. This was a fitting appellation because as many of you know, I grew up in the Mojave Desert and temperatures would usually rest in the hundreds during that month. On top of that, we would have two-a-day practices lasting usually 4 hours each where the coaches would constantly afflict our bodies with grueling workouts in order to get us in shape for the upcoming season, which most of us desperately needed. Anybody who wanted to play the next year had to press through the week, and if you could not hack it, the coaches suggested baseball as an alternative.

This is a helpful illustration of the Christian life. Since becoming saved, God’s purpose for us is to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29; Phil 2:5-8). This means that our ultimate purpose in life is to follow the example of Jesus and die to our own fleshly inclinations and submit to the Father’s will in all things (John 8:29; Phil 3:10-11). We painfully die to what our flesh wants (comfort, praise, adoration, security, etc) and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, through the word, which subsequently helps us achieve Christ-likeness (Gal 6:14; Rom 8:12-17; 2 Cor 4:17).

The Result of Suffering

The scripture makes it evident that our lives are essentially going to be full of trials because of the conflict of the flesh and the Spirit. The Holy Spirit calls us to die to ourselves, and the flesh wants to be indulged; so, they are at war with one another (Gal 5:16-25). James encourages us not to be discouraged by these trials, but rather rejoice because they are producing steadfastness (James 1:2-4). Paul also reminds us that these trials are producing Christ-like character (Rom 5:3-5). Suffering is necessary for us if we are going to reach our goal of becoming Christ-like. We can rejoice in the trials because of the result they are producing, even if for the moment they seem excruciating (Heb 12:11).

I willfully endured Hell Week because I wanted to play; there was an end in mind. The coaches’ end was for me to be in the best shape possible. They knew this would take temporary suffering. God’s end is that we would be in the shape of Christ. This also necessitates temporary suffering. But the more we suffer for the sake of Christ, the more we will be conformed into His image (2 Cor 4:17).

The Christian life is like Hell Week practice every day of our lives. God’s purpose is for us to deny our fleshly desires and to seek his kingdom first. He always has a purposeful plan of trials awaiting us each day (practice). Some workouts will be short and easy, others will be lengthy and painful, but there is a purposeful perfect intention behind each one. As we offer up our lives as living sacrifices we will be able to discern God’s will and better discern his purpose behind the “workouts” (Rom 12:1-2).

The Necessity of Spiritual Nourishment

Knowledge that this is what awaits us each day should encourage us to begin each day with a hearty meal of meditation on the scriptures. We also need to be well hydrated and so we should refresh our souls through an extensive time of secret prayer. If we choose to neglect either, the consequences during the workout will become evident. Moreover, if we choose to indulge on junk food of the world for breakfast, this too will influence our endurance and joy during the trials that await us. Though the flesh likes its Twinkies and Coke, these will only make it sick in the end. We do have the choice of what we want to eat.

Helping One Another Endure

We are all in this Hell Week together and on the same team. Therefore, we are not competing with one another, but with sin in general. Each person is seeking to die to his flesh and run the race set before him with endurance. Yet, we know from personal experience that our comrades’ diets are not always up to snuff and so they often faint during the trials. They become exhausted and pale and it is our job to come along side them to refresh their parched souls with water of the Holy Spirit through prayer and ministry, or to aid their strength by giving them the Word. It should be noted that if a brother is dying from heat stroke, yelling at them will not help. Then again, there may be a time when our friend innovatively thinks about taking a short-cut by crossing though the freeway might shorten their trial. A stern rebuke would certainly be on order, and tossing them a water bottle will not help much. We need to discern people’s true needs before imparting the medicine. In addition, it is good to remember that each of us has vomited a time or two and some of us have been hit by trucks; let our memory help us as we minister.

Looking Forward to the End

One day each of us will look like the Perfect One; We will be changed in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain (1 Cor 15:50-58).