Training for Battle Includes Training for Survival
Before the games, the tributes were given a time to train. Since they were about to go into a battle to the death, you would expect the training stations would all be combat oriented. Hand-to-hand combat, archery, knife throwing, etc. Those stations were there, to be sure, but there were others—survival stations. Stations that taught you how to camouflage, set traps and snares, distinguish edible plants and berries from the non-edible ones, tie knots, etc.
A lot of the tributes only wanted to focus on the “glory” skills—combat skills that made you look strong and capable. Frankly, it was a little bit arrogant and short sighted. It was as if they thought so highly of their fighting ability, that they thought they would win the battle and be done so fast they wouldn’t need to know how to find water or catch food.
The more humble tributes approached training differently. They realized that part of surviving in the games wasn’t just killing the others, but outlasting the others—and that required some survival techniques. Not everyone who died in the games died in combat. Many died from “natural” causes—eating poisonous foods, dehydration and/or starvation, infection, etc. Knowing how to survive was as important, if not more important than being skilled in combat.
I can’t help but think how much this applies to life and especially the Christ-like life. So often we want to be great at the obvious things. We want to be powerful in things that look impressive. We want to be powerful speakers or business people. Maybe we want to be able to do big miracles like the disciples did, or become Christian teachers with a huge following of people. (Obviously, the list goes on and on…what things would you add to this list?) We think that if we can accomplish these things we will be winners in life.
However, it takes some wisdom (and a lot of humility) to realize that the Christian life also requires a more humble set of survival skills. Just like the Hunger Games, life isn’t over in one quick battle or won by one moment of greatness. Life is a marathon and it takes patience, steadfastness, long-suffering…
I thought it might be interesting to consider the following: If the Christian life was like the Hunger Games and we were each given time to train at various stations, what would some of the survival stations be? Here are a few I came up with.
- Finding real food. In John 4:34, Jesus says his food is to do the will of his Father. Obedience—it’s not glamorous, but it is lifesaving. Additionally, Jesus calls himself the bread of life in John 6:35; “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” He also says that, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Real food is found in relationship with Jesus and obedience to the Father.
- Knowing where to get good water. Jesus tells the women at the well, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13). Again in John 7:38 Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
- Quietness. It was important for Katniss to learn how to be quiet in the woods if she was to be undetected. This kept her from being found by the enemy, it also enabled her to hunt without scaring off her prey. In the spiritual life, not only is quietness a quality God values, but it also allows us to hear the quiet whisper of His voice (see Kings 19:11-13). Here are a couple other verses about the value of quiet:
- “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (I Peter 1:3–4).
- “It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:26).
- “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:14).
- “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).
- Patience. Katniss also had to have patience. Impatience ruins quiet. Patience not only keeps quiet, but is necessary in hunting—you have to wait for the right timing if you want to kill a deer. God urges us to have patience over and over in the scriptures; it’s part of the fruit of his Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). We bear fruit with patience (Luke 8:15). We inherit God’s promises through faith and patience (Hebrews 6:12).
- Forgiveness & loving your enemies. Surely if there is one station I would just as soon skip, it would be this one. It is hard to forgive those who have hurt us, but God demands it.
- “If you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25).
- But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
- Endurance. Just as the Hunger Games weren’t won in an instant, so life isn’t lived in a moment. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. This is why endurance is so critical. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance [or endurance] the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).
- Dying to self. This is another station I would rather skip. I don’t like to deny myself. But think about how many times Katniss had to deny herself in the arena if she was to win. She couldn’t just build a fire if she was cold or she would be spotted by the enemy. She couldn’t just wolf down the water or the rich food when it came as she wanted to do, lest her stomach reject it. She had to constantly risk her life to gain certain advantages, knocking down the tracker jackers, destroying the career’s food and supply pile, going to the feast at the cornucopia for Peeta’s medicine, etc. Paul said, in I Corinthians 9:27, “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize”. He embraced Jesus’ teaching when He said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
- Recognizing the enemy’s traps. To survive you have to stay alive. Staying alive means you avoid getting caught, injured, or killed…which in real life equates to being ensnared by sin in any way that disqualifies you. Any and all sin is a trap.
- Learning to hear God’s voice and know His thoughts. (Remember how well Katniss knew Haymitch and how she was able to read his thoughts…like when she knew that he didn’t send her water because there must be water nearby?) You learn to hear his voice and know his will, heart, thoughts, and plans when you spend time in His Word. There’s really no shortcut around this.
Questions for Discussion :
- If there was a training session for the Christ-like life, what stations would you be most tempted to spend your time at?
- There was a list above of things which Christians often find impressive (being a powerful speaker, a wealthy business man, doing miracles, having a large following…) What other things do you think should be on this list?
- Which survival stations in the list above do you find most helpful in your life?
- Katniss aced the edible plants station with flying colors. Which survival stations are you strongest in? Which ones come most naturally to you and your personality?
- Which survival stations do you find most difficult or most distasteful?
- Many of the tributes didn’t feel the survival stations were necessary. Are there survival stations you think (in your own opinion, not God’s) aren’t necessary for you to master?
- What other survival stations would you add to the list for winning the Christian life?
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