Imagine you can’t play the piano and I asked you to play Amazing Grace. Would it be easy or hard? Would it help if you tried really, really hard to play Amazing Grace?

This is how many people try to live the Christian life. They hear a sermon on gratefulness. They try really hard to be grateful. They do this for a few hours or a few days. Then, they forget about it. Life gets in the way. Then, they are left with a nagging feeling of guilt about how they are not as grateful as they would like to be.

Next week they hear a sermon on service. They try really hard to serve… for a few hours. Then they forget about it. Again, they have a life. They don’t rebel against God or the idea of serving, they just forget about it and go on with life. But again, they are left with a nagging sense of guilt about not serving as they ought.

The next week they hear a sermon on prayer. Same thing.

There is a better way. (I owe my insight into this verse to John Ortberg. I think he got it from Dallas Willard.) Here is the key verse:

Train yourself to be godly. 1 Timothy 4:7 (NIV2011)

Let’s go back to the piano. Instead of trying really hard to play Amazing Grace, what if you trained yourself to play Amazing Grace? What would that look like?

Let’s imagine you sit down with a skilled piano teacher. He explains that your fingers can be numbered one through five. The thumb is one and the pinky is five. The middle finger is three.

He places your middle finger on the E above middle C. He asks you to play 3-2-1 starting with E above middle C with the middle finger of your right hand. These are the first three notes of “Mary had a little lamb.” He walks you through the rest of the song, pointing to the notes on the music in front of you. After about ten times, you stumble through it.

He gives you ten more songs, and works you through each one until you are able to figure out how it works. He asks you to practice for an hour a day and you agree to do so. A week later, you can play the melody of all ten songs reasonably well. You are only playing one note at a time at this point.

He gives you ten more songs. You practice those for a few weeks. He introduces the left hand. At first, you play only the left hand. Then, you play both hands together. Then you play two notes at the same time in the right hand. This is called harmony. You practice some more. Practice, practice, practice. This is training to play the piano.

Keep this up for about five years and you will easily be able to play Amazing Grace. It won’t be hard; it will be easy.

You might object that this way sounds like a hard way to learn to play Amazing Grace. It is not the hard way, it is the only way. The hard way is trying really hard to play Amazing Grace. Here is the good news. Once you subject yourself to this training, playing Amazing Grace will be easy. In fact, nearly any song in the hymnbook will be easy. Ask anyone who can play Amazing Grace. They will tell you it is easy. What is hard is trying to do something you have not trained yourself to do.

Train yourself to be godly.

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