There were four young men that decided they wanted to serve their country. Only problem was, none of them were in shape. None of them met the fitness thresholds required by the military. They had one year to meet the physical fitness requirements, and so they were assigned to a special class that was led by a Personal Trainer to help them meet these goals. The class was voluntary. Though strongly advised to attend, it was not mandatory.
Since it wasn’t “mandatory” the first young man decided that he just didn’t need to go. It wasn’t for him. He didn’t need it. He’d do good enough on his own when it came time to stand before the judges and take the test.
The second young man decided he would go to class… occasionally. He saw it as important, but not a priority. If other things came up, he’d do those. If there was extra work to do, if the weather wasn’t welcoming, if there was a vacation planned, or if he just wasn’t feeling up to it then he wouldn’t go. He did show up to the training sessions… sometimes. But because it wasn’t a priority, things could always “come up” and “get in the way”.
The third young man was very devoted. He went to every training session. He saw it as a priority in his life to pass this test and to serve his country. And so every session he went, he would stand there and watch as the personal trainer would run. And he would watch as the personal trainer lifted weights, and he would watch as the personal trainer performed drills and did exercises. He didn’t miss anything. He watched them all… he just never did any of the work himself.
Then there was the fourth young man. The fourth young man showed up to every personal training session. Outside of illness or emergency he didn’t let anything get in the way. Even if he had to be out of town on vacation or for work, he made sure to always find a trainer to work out with. He didn’t just watch the trainer, but actively participated in all the work outs, drills, and exercises. He gave it his all, and did his very best.
When one year had passed the four met again at the recruiter’s office to check in and perform their fitness examine. The first young man was discarded– He was virtually unchanged from a year prior (perhaps even worse off). The second young man was discarded – He was better, but still well below the thresholds needed for competency. The third young man was discarded – Having never missed a class he was heartbroken. He wondered why he wasn’t any better than a year before. The fourth young man was accepted and had the honor of hearing the words – “Young man. You are fit for duty. You are ready for service. Enter into service to fight alongside your brothers.”
There seems to be an attitude problem; isn’t there? Sometimes we may not even know it exists. But for generations the moaning and groaning could be heard amongst brethren, “Why don’t we have better Bible Class attendance/participation.” Isn’t it an attitude problem? The attitudes that are reflected in this parable?
The first young man recognizes that “bible class” is voluntary. For some people, if they don’t “have” to do it, they simply won’t. They won’t stop to think of the benefits, they won’t stop to think how it could impact themselves and others, they don’t think about how it strengthens their relationship with God; they simply see it as something they don’t “have” to do, that nobody can “make” them do, and they just won’t go. Of course there are people that can’t, for health reasons or extenuating circumstances, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Here, we are addressing those who can, but won’t.
The second young man recognizes that bible class is important, but his attitude does not accept it as a priority. Perhaps he thinks he can do better on his own. Perhaps there are other things that are more pressing in his life. Priorities are the things that in our own hearts and minds hold the most value. Therefore, if other things take priority over bible class, it could only be because we value them more. Certainly people will object to that, because they don’t want to accept that might be their attitude problem. Yet nonetheless; what other explanation is there for how we prioritize things/events in our lives?
The third young man certainly recognizes the importance of bible class, and definitely makes it a priority; however, the attitude problem rests in the fact that they think the “work” is for someone else to do. They fail to see that “participation” is what is required for true/real benefit. By attending and watching, all they did was increase in knowledge, but not in ability. That’s a problem. How many times do Bible Class Teachers spend HOURS creating material, pass the material out to 20 or 30 or 50 people, and only 5 or 6 people actually do the class work/homework – actually participate? How many times do Christians sit in classes for decades… yet truly learn the lessons?!?! It’s not enough to be there, to be a spectator… we have to participate.
The fourth young man is the one that gets it. He sees the value in the class and so he is there for it. He’s not just there for it, but makes it a priority. And he doesn’t even just make it a priority, but he participates in a way that will truly help him to grow – make him better! That’s what these Bible classes are designed for! That’s their very purpose! So if we are using them for anything less… then they are just a waste of time.
In “The Parable of the Personal Trainer”, you can see the absurdity can’t you? First, you can see the purpose and value of having a personal trainer can’t you? And you can also see the absurdity of how the first three young men approach such a class; can’t you? Then can’t you also see importance of Bible Class? Can’t you also see the absurdity of the attitudes that fail to make the best use of Bible Class? If you’ve answered “Yes” to each of these questions, then now you are without excuse. You are without excuse for making consistent participation in bible class a priority in your life.