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What Are You Training For?

Most of us have been involved to varying degrees with different types of training: training for our specialties, to run a race, to get in shape, to eat healthier, to get better in our areas of interest. We put tremendous amounts of time into our professional training. But what about our spiritual training? Dr. Jeff Amstutz discusses

by Jeff Amstutz, DDS, MBA

I, admittedly, am not much of a runner. But each year I encourage those involved with the CMDA Dental Residency [+] program in Memphis, Tennessee and in our local house church to participate in the annual St. Jude Memphis Marathon weekend. People choose to run everything from the one-mile family fun run up to the full marathon. Last year I signed up for the half marathon— much farther than I’ve ever run (visualize more of a plodding as opposed to actually running) at one time.

Being of an age where getting injured is becoming more of a concern, I turned toward a half-marathon training program in order to build up the endurance I would need over time, while hopefully not overdoing it. Relying on the advice of experts with a proven record of success in helping people like me prepare to run, I stuck to their program. The training consisted of days of short and moderate length runs throughout the week with interspersed rest days and a longer run each weekend, building up strength and endurance for the race weekend.

The training was challenging—not only in increasing the mileage I would run each week, but also in committing to make the time daily to prepare over the course of several months. But by sticking to the training program, I was able to finish the race and achieve my goals.

Those involved in our house church here in Memphis know about training. Most are young professionals currently involved in intensive training programs—urban education, family practice residents, surgery, med-peds and dental training programs to list a few.

Most of us in CMDA have been involved to varying degrees with different types of training: training for our specialties, to run a race, to get in shape, to eat healthier, to get better in our areas of interest.

We put tremendous amounts of time into our professional training. Undergraduate, professional school, residencies, fellowships and continuing education—all specifically designed to help us be the best we can be in our chosen profession of healthcare. Many of us work hard to balance our professional life with time for family and with some type of training program to help us stay physically fit.

But what about our spiritual training? In his letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul tells this young disciple to “…train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8).

Are you taking the time to make a real effort in training to be godly?

Early in my career, following 10 years of private practice, God gave me the opportunity to start a three-year dental training program in the Central African country of Gabon. With no dentists in the southern part of the country where our hospital was located, our program focused on taking committed Christian men with nursing degrees and training them for three years to provide quality, basic dental care to an extremely underserved population.

In the first year of training, our dental team was invited to be part of an outreach team. The national church, along with our agency, had a commitment to take the gospel to every village—and they were well on the way to accomplishing that goal. A local pastor and I collaborated to help with the outreach by taking our dental team and portable dental equipment to go to a village where there was not yet a gospel presence.

We shared the benefits of modern dentistry with the people of the village throughout the day, and on that first evening we planned a service to share the really good news of why we were there. The pastor would share biblical truth and Michel, one of my dental trainees, asked if he could follow the pastor and provide a call to action following the message. So that was the plan. Michel’s grandfather had been born and lived in that village, so it was a proud moment. Not only had he, as a son of the village, been educated—having received a nursing degree and now currently in dental training—but he had returned to bless the village with his skills. I was thrilled. The pastor delivered truth and God’s presence was evident.

As Michel stood up to speak following the message (with what we assumed would be a call to commit to Christ), he instead delivered a most eloquent call to action. It wasn’t based on the pastor’s just completed message, but on the importance of proper oral hygiene, regular dental checkups and good brushing and flossing techniques.

And in that moment, I realized we had done a great job training on the importance of oral health, but that excellence perhaps came at the expense of the things that really matter. That evening, God still moved and people came to faith, and today a body of believers is meeting and serving in that village. But I also learned the importance of perspective and focus. Dental care is of some value—for this time—certainly for those with little or no other access. And we need to be training for excellence. But we also need to integrate training that is of value for all things—both for the present and for the eternal life to come.

So we made the adjustment. We began studying God’s Word together, praying with each other and with our patients, sharing our faith journeys with others and helping establish groups of believers in nearby villages.

As Christians in healthcare today, simply graduating professional school and being a healthcare professional is not enough. Imagine the intern who doesn’t progress. It is not just time that makes us good clinicians. It is through training and constant use of our skills that we develop, grow and increase our abilities.

Hebrews 5:12-14 says, “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

Physical maturity is mostly a matter of time (the longer we live, the more physically mature we become). Spiritual maturity, on the other hand, does not happen as a direct result of time; it requires constant training.

At the CMDA Dental Residency [+] program, we are not content with training that is only of some value. Yes, we want to train and prepare to deliver excellent dental care. What we are striving for, both in our personal lives and in our program, is that which has value for all things—both for this present life and the eternal life to come.

As followers of Christ, we need to commit to spiritual training so we might better understand God’s righteousness and distinguish between good and evil. We train by:

  1. Being in God’s Word regularly and spending committed time in prayer. We need to spend time and receive our guidance from the expert.
  2. Looking to Jesus, remembering who He is and whose we are.
  3. Exercising our faith on a daily basis—stretching ourselves out of our comfort zone—by praying with patients, sharing our faith journey with a co-worker, proclaiming the good news of the gospel and making decisions with our lives that have eternal impact.
  4. Persevering. Keeping our eyes on the goal and encouraging each other along the way.

Many of the residents and those involved with our house church are signed up to participate again in this year’s St. Jude Memphis Marathon weekend. Soon we will need to begin training in earnest for race day. The young men and women I have the privilege of working with in Memphis are dedicated and committed young professionals, putting in the time necessary to train for their specialties, to train for an annual race and, more importantly, to train for that which matters most.

What are you training for? Does your training reflect your true priorities?


Are you ready to increase your spiritual training? CMDA has a wide variety of resources and services to help you merge your spiritual beliefs with your professional practice. These resources and services give you the knowledge and tools you need to effectively serve the Lord.

This Feature Story Appears in:

Fall 2017 Edition of Today’s Christian Doctor