Train to Win

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Top-drawer actors are famous for commitment to their craft.

In 1952, Debbie Reynolds was cast as the female lead in the musical Singin’ in the Rain, where she would star alongside Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor, two of the greatest dancers in the world.

For Reynolds, this was the opportunity of a lifetime.  The problem is that she wasn’t a trained dancer. 

Kelly, a notorious perfectionist, resented the fact that the director had hired an amateur.  He drove her relentlessly.  She cried almost every day on the set. 

Reynolds resolved not to break.  The famous “Good Morning” dance number, which features all three actors, lasts less than four minutes.  It took a grueling 15 hours to film, including at least 40 “takes” of the trio hopping together over a couch.  By the end of the shoot, Reynolds’ feet were bloody. That was her way of demonstrating to Kelly that she would do whatever it took to succeed.  She later credited him with shaping her career.

Tom Hanks lost 55 pounds to play the lost-on-an-island lead character in Cast Away.  He bulked up by adding 30 pounds to play fading baseball star Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own.  Then he dropped 26 pounds below his ideal weight to portray the AIDS-afflicted central character in Philadelphia.  In 2013 he was diagnosed with Type II diabetes, a condition his doctor linked to the physical extremes he had voluntarily embraced to play such diverse roles. 

To film the movie Moulin Rouge, Nicole Kidman, on a quest for an 18-inch waistline, insisted that her corset be tied “tighter, tighter!”  She suffered a broken rib. 

Billy Bob Thornton put crushed glass in his shoe every day to create his memorable limp in Sling Blade.  In order to experience the pain of his character, every step had to be authentically painful. 

Gary Oldman, who portrayed Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, smoked $20,000 of premium cigars over the course of the filming.  Oldman could have put fake cigars between his lips.  But he insisted on imitating the life that Churchill actually lived.  Besides winning the Oscar for Best Actor, he ultimately needed medical care for nicotine poisoning. 

Then there’s Robert DeNiro, famous for the lengths to which he goes to inhabit his film roles. 

In order to play the young Vito Coleone in 1974’s The Godfather Part II, he journeyed to Sicily with a cassette recorder and script and asked the locals to read his lines.  He won an Oscar, even though his role involved less than a page of English words.  To portray the psychopathic criminal Max Cady in 1991’s Cape Fear, he paid a dentist $5,000 to file down his teeth so he would look more menacing.  Afterwards he paid another dentist $20,000 to have them restored.    

Notable actors and actresses believe they should do whatever it takes to excel.  Some of their choices, quite frankly, are outrageous. 

Followers of Jesus tend to be more casual about their level of commitment. 

Sure, Jesus asks for everything.  But does he mean now?  Maybe we can negotiate deeper trust at a later time.  You know, like when the craziness of 2020 is finally behind us and things settle down. 

One thing we know for sure: Spiritual maturity doesn’t happen because we drift in the general direction of loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

It is a choice we need to make every day. 

The apostle Paul drew an analogy to another group of seriously committed individuals: athletes. 

“You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.”  Then he adds, “I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.” (I Corinthians 9:24-27, The Message)

Don’t miss the opportunity of a lifetime.  Train to win.

By God’s grace – whatever has happened in your life up to this point – it’s high time you were up on your feet dancing.