A fraction of a second was enough to make headlines—and lasting fame—around the world for what Sports Illustrated called the single greatest athletic accomplishment of the twentieth century. It was the breaking of the four-minute mile. No one on record had ever run faster than this four-minute, psychological-barrier mile.1

But in 1954, just a few weeks after the skinny Oxford medical student, Roger Bannister, had accomplished “the impossible,” Australian runner John Landy surpassed the new record time. The following season saw a few more record breakers and, within three years, no fewer than seventeen runners had conquered what had been considered an impenetrable barrier.

This type of achievement does not come as the result of wishful thinking. As with all accomplishments, dedication, perseverance, sacrifice, and a commitment to consistent practice are essential.

There is no doubt that Christianity can once again usher in a renaissance in the arts, architecture, education, economics, science, medicine, health, government, and technology. But there must be a return to the discipline of daily practice. The Apostle Peter understood the importance of practice and gives us a plan to follow:

...Make every effort to supplement [at one’s own expense] your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.... Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall (2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV, emphasis mine).

I don’t know about you, but Peter’s promise motivates me to persevere and practice these qualities with great diligence. But how do we motivate our children to practice anything diligently, without constant coercion, threats and reminders? I believe the answer is found in one of the first instructions given on parenting—the oft-quoted Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go....” How many times have you heard this verse quoted? It is very possible that, in its familiarity, and because it has been presented with such varying interpretations, its original meaning may have escaped us. The English word train does not translate the full significance of this word. The Hebrew word, hanak (חנך), or its expanded form, Hanukkah, carries the idea of dedication and describes the feast of Hanukkah, also known as the Feast of Dedication. Perhaps this means that, as parents, we are to dedicate our children to the Lord. But this definition falls short of its true meaning.

The root word for train means “to instruct, to initiate, to narrow.” In Arabic it also carries the idea of “palate” or of rubbing the palate of a child. The ancient Hebrews and Egyptians rubbed the palate of a newborn child with dates or figs, perhaps to create a sucking reflex so that the child would begin nursing.

Training our children requires more than simply providing an education. We must create an environment of captivating learning, with experiences that motivate them to passionately pursue worthy goals. External rewards will not suffice; motivation must be intrinsic. We must help to ignite a fire from within so that the child’s passion becomes the driving force behind persevering practice that leads to the achievement of excellence. Turning passivity into passion by providing experiences that cultivate their taste for what is Godly, great, and glorious is the essence of true Biblical “training.”