God On Film 2010 part 6
The Karate Kid
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
August 8, 2010

A little over a month ago, I got to go and see the remake of one of the classic movies from the 1980s. Of course, that’s when I was a teenager and it was one of my favourite movies of the time. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the original, but I can tell you that I have seen the remake exactly one time. But I’m going to stop counting there, because I’m sure I’ll see it many more times in the years to come.

I’m talking, of course, about The Karate Kid. How many of you have seen at least one of the Karate Kid movies?

The original movie came out in 1984, starring Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso and Pat Morita of Happy Days fame as Mr. Miyagi. And it quickly became pretty popular, spawning all kinds of merchandize like action figures, head bands, posters, an animated TV series, and even a video game. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Karate_Kid) Even the critics liked it; Roger Ebert gave it four out of four stars. And the American Film Institute lists it among the 100 most inspiring movies of all time (#98).

And so you know what happens to a hit movie… sequels! So you’ve got The Karate Kid II and The Karate Kid III, both with Daniel and Mr. Miyagi. And by the way, the kid who played Daniel? He’s now 48 years old. (November 4, 1961).

Then there came The Next Karate Kid, which starred Hillary Swank in her first leading role.

And now, in 2010, they’ve rebooted the series with Jackie Chan playing Mr. Han and Will Smith’s son Jaden playing a 12-year old kid named Dre… a bit younger than Daniel was. Now, it’s a bit odd because it’s actually about Kung Fu and not Karate, but the movie was actually pretty good. Most of the critics liked it, and it’s brought in about $255 million at the box office, making it the top grossing film in the franchise, the #1 Action Remake ever, the #2 Martial Arts film, and #9 of any movie with a June release. (http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=karatekid2010.htm as of August 7, 2010)

So you know what happens to a hit movie… a sequel is already in the works.

Now, movies come and go here so quickly that it’s already out of the theatre. So this is the only movie this summer in our God On Film series that you actually can’t go to see anymore. Every other movie in this series has been playing the theatre. But when it comes out on DVD, I’d recommend you get hold of it.

But I want to talk about this movie anyway because I think there are some things we can learn from it, specifically when it comes to training.

Lynn read a passage for us earlier that said…

1 Corinthians 9:25 (NLT)
All athletes are disciplined in their training.

So we’re talking about training this morning. All right everyone, 10 laps. Let’s go.

Why are you still here? Okay, no laps this morning. We’re not talking about physical training anyway; we’re talking about spiritual training. We’re talking about growing up and becoming better and healthier spiritually.

Why is Spiritual Training Important?

A.    We train spiritually in order to become more like Jesus

In the movie, Dre trained in order to become more like Mr. Han. He had seen Mr. Han in action, and he knew right then that he wanted to be trained to become like him.

We train to become more like Jesus. That’s the number one goal of spiritual training. That should be the goal of every Christ-follower. It’s really what spiritual growth or spiritual maturity is all about. Part of your very purpose in life needs to be to become more like Jesus.

Romans 8:29 (NLT)
For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son…

God’s plan has always been to make you like His Son… Jesus. Now, don’t get me wrong. Let’s be clear about what this verse is saying… It’s not saying you’re going to become a god. You will never be a god. I mean, you may want people to think you’re a god, and sometimes you may act like you think you’re a god, but you’ll never be a god. And God doesn’t want you to become a god; He wants you to become godly. He wants you to develop His character… the way He thinks, the way He acts, the way He feels, His values, His moral character.

Ephesians 4:15 (NLT)
Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ…

In other words, God wants you to grow up. You know, babies are cute. In fact, there are no babies cuter than my babies. Just yesterday, Noah had some pictures taken. Take a look…


That’s one of my sons. The other son and I went for a walk earlier this week, and if you’ve ever walked with a two year old it can become an adventure. We had just started on the walk when he suddenly crouched down and said, “Look Daddy, what’s that?” So I took a look, “It’s a caterpillar, son.” “Oooo, a caterpillar.”

Two steps later, he’s back down – “Look, Daddy. An ant.” And sure enough, there was an ant scurrying across the road. I knew right then that this was going to be an exciting trip.

About three steps later, “Look Daddy.” I couldn’t tell what he was looking at, so I asked him. “What is it, Nate?” “It’s a rock.”

Yeah, toddlers and babies are cute, aren’t they? But if stayed that way, it’d be tragic. God doesn’t want us to remain as spiritual babies. He wants us to mature. And what does spiritual maturity look like? Just take a long look at Jesus. But unfortunately, a lot of people grow older but never grow up. I know people who have been Believers for years and years, but they’ve never grown up.

We need to grow up spiritually. We need to become more like Jesus. And in order for that to happen, we need to enter into training.

B.    We train spiritually to increase our spiritual health

What happens when you enter into physical training? Well, you usually have some kind of an exercise regime and you have a diet you need to stick to. You need to be nourished and you need to be stretched. And what happens? You become more skilled and you become healthier.

Same is true for you. You will only grow spiritually when you are nourished by God’s Word and through prayer, and when you are stretched by stepping out in obedience to God, following Him, and trusting Him. That’s the kind of training you need.

Psalm 1:1-3 (NIV)
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.

He’s strong, healthy and growing because he’s committed to the Word of God and putting it into practice. Leonard Sweet in his book AquaChurch asked…

“Are we reading the Bible in such a way that it brings us alive to relationships with Christ, even a God experience? Are we reading the Bible in such a way that Christ—His love, His joy, His grace, His peace—is being formed in us?”
~ Leonard Sweet, AquaChurch p. 59

His love, His joy, His grace, His peace—His very character—is formed in us when we are devoted to Him and to His Word… when we are devoted to training ourselves spiritually.

You see, in life, spiritually or otherwise, you’re either moving forward or you’re moving backward. You’re progressing or you’re regressing. You’re growing or you’re declining.

So you train so you can continue to grow… you can continue to move forward… you can continue to become healthier and more like Jesus.

C.    We train spiritually to be ready for spiritual attacks

What kind of spiritual attacks? Well, anything that tries to weaken your faith and rob you of your faith. We’re talking apathy, depression, doubt, fear, unfaithfulness, temptation, people who will try to lead you away from God, demonic forces, spiritual oppression… all kinds of spiritual attacks. Paul wrote…

1 Corinthians 9:27 (NLT)
Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

What’s Paul talking about? He was talking about neglecting his relationship with Jesus to the point that he loses it. In church circles, we call it backsliding. But basically it means that a person can walk away or wander away from their faith. It can happen suddenly, but usually it’s just a gradual thing where you just start to let yourself go spiritually. You stop praying, you stop reading your Bible, you start to miss Sundays with the Church, you start to rationalize a little sin here and there… and you end up a long ways away from God. As Paul put it, when you stop training you end up disqualifying yourself.

In the movie, Dre entered training so that he could defend himself against some bullies and so he didn’t have to live in fear. We train spiritually for basically the same thing. Read this with me…

2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

The more you devote yourself to spiritual training, the more power, love and self-discipline you experience and the less fear and timidity you face.

Keys to Spiritual Training:

1.    Spiritual training must be intentional

Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional. You only grow up when you commit yourself to training and maturing. There are churches that are filled with people who’ve attended church their entire lives, they believe in Jesus, yet they’re still spiritual babies. As the writer of Hebrews sadly noted…

Hebrews 5:12 (NIV)
… 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.

What was their problem? They heard all the right things, but they never trained. They never put what they had been taught into practice. Plenty of time had passed, but the people had not grown. And even today, millions of Christians have grown older without ever growing up. Because it’s not automatic; it must be intentional. A person must want to grow, decide to grow, and train to grow.

“There is an enormous difference between growing old in the Lord and growing up in Him. One is automatic and requires no effort at all... just aging. But the other is never automatic or easy. It calls for personal discipline, continual determination, and spiritual desire. Churches are full of sleepy saints who are merely ‘logging time’ in God’s family.”
~ Charles Swindoll

Don’t let that be you. Spiritual growth is intentional.

2.    Spiritual training takes focused effort

You know why some people never grow spiritually? Because they’re not willing to put the effort into it. They’re not willing to train. But if you want to grow, it’s going to take effort. You’ve got to enter into training and commit yourself to it.

In the movie, Dre and Mr. Han take a trip to a mountaintop and visit what I expect was a mystic Temple where Kung Fu masters trained and honed their skills. And Dre was fascinated by one woman who was apparently staring down a cobra and mimicking the cobra’s every move. They were moving their heads at the same time, stretching out at the same time, recoiling at the same time… and when Dre mentioned this to Mr. Han, Mr. Han corrected him. It wasn’t the woman copying the cobra; it was the cobra copying the woman. She was so focused that she could control the very movement of the cobra.

And so later on, Dre continued to talk about this with Mr. Han. Take a look…

[VIDEO – KARATE KID, FOCUS, from MovieMinistry.com]

Dre wasn’t focused. His mind was everyplace else, and as a result he wasn’t really putting the effort into the training. So Mr. Han had to teach him the same thing the apostle Paul teaches us…

Romans 6:13 (NLT)
…give yourselves completely to God since you have been given new life. And use your whole body as a tool to do what is right for the glory of God.

Underline the word “completely.” And underline “your whole body.” That means you’re focused. It means you’re going to put the effort in, no matter what it takes. You’re going to grow.

“You should set your goals high and direct your energies toward achieving them. Train your mind. Develop your skills. Discipline your appetites. Prepare for the future. Work hard. Go for it! You can’t steal second with one foot on first.”
~ James Dobson, Life on the Edge, ch. 4 p. 59

3.    Spiritual training works better with training partners

Of course Daniel had Mr. Miyagi pushing him, Dre had Mr. Han. And for anyone who goes into training for anything, it almost always works better with training partners… whether it be one or two people, or a whole team or class of people. You push each other, you stretch each other, you watch for each other, you challenge each other, you encourage each other, you hold each other accountable…

So when it comes to spiritual training, it’s not meant to be an isolated solitary process. It’s meant to happen within the context of relationships with other believers. In other words, the Church.

“The idolatry of individualism has influenced even the way we think about spiritual growth.  So much of the teaching on spiritual formation is self-centered and self-focused without any reference to our relationship to other Christians. This is completely unbiblical and ignores much of the New Testament.”
~ Rick Warren

The truth, we need each other. We don’t grow in isolation from each other. We grow and develop within the context of relationship, or fellowship. And we see this truth over and over again in the New Testament. Let me give you just two passages…

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT)
Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other…

Ephesians 4:16 (NLT)
Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

As believers, need each other. If we’re going to train and grow and mature, we need to be committed to participating in the Church… the Body of Believers. Can you be a Christian and not be an active participant in the Church? Well, I’d have to say “yes,” but it’ll be a lot harder, you’re more likely to fall away, you’ll be disobeying clear instructions from the Bible, and you’ll never reach the level of effectiveness and maturity that you can when you’re within the Church.

4.    Spiritual training will require sacrifice

 [VIDEO – KARATE KID, Training (Are You Committed?) from MovieMinistry.com]

If you’re going to become more like Jesus… if you’re going to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus… if you are going to attain new heights of spiritual growth… then it’s going to mean sacrifices.

“You have to give up to go up.”
~ John Maxwell

The early disciples understood this. In Luke chapter 5, we read…

Luke 5:27-28 (NLT)
Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax-collection booth. “Come, be my disciple!” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.

For Levi, it meant giving up what he knew. It meant giving up his source of income. It meant stepping into the unknown.

Now contrast that to the young man who came to Jesus asking how he could receive eternal life. And after a brief discussion, Jesus told him…

Mark 10:21-22 (NLT)
“Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this, the man’s face fell, and he went sadly away because he had many possessions.

So what might you have to give up? What kind of sacrifices might you have to make in order to train and become more like Jesus?

Well, let’s see. Time. You’ll have to give up some of your time and commit that time to investing yourself in spiritual disciplines like reading the Bible, praying, studying, worshipping, serving… Oh, you might enjoy those kinds of things. But they still require a sacrifice of time.

Then there’s comfort. If you’re going to truly follow Jesus, then you’re not always going to be comfortable. He’s require sacrifices of you. Some people are even led to become missionaries and leave all the comforts of Western living behind. For you, maybe you give up your comfort by serving the poor. Or working with kids in the nursery. Or standing up for what’s right even when other people will ridicule you.

What else might you sacrifice? How about relationships? I think that every one of us should have friendships with people who are far from God. I think a Christian who is only friends with Christians is just isolating themselves in an unhealthy and way. But are there one or two of those relationships that are particularly harmful for you?

Of course in that verse, it talks about money being something you’re called to give up. You invest your money in ministry, in caring for the needy, and in the church. A big part of spiritual training is learning to tithe. In fact, I believe your spiritual growth will be stagnant until you learn to tithe. What does tithing mean? Tithing means that you give a tenth of your income to God through the church because a) you love Jesus, and b) you believe in the mission of the church.

Now, obviously the church needs money to simply exist and function, just like any organization. But I don’t think that God asks you to tithe just for the benefit of the Church. I think an even bigger reason is for your own benefit. Giving to God is a form of worship. It teaches you to trust Him. It reminds you that He is ultimately in control. It stretches you and helps you to grow.

Shera and I have always tithed our income and given to other needs and special offerings as well. And when you figure out what 10% of your income is, your first thought, is “Whoa, that’s a lot of money.” But when you start to actually make that sacrifice and give that money, you’ll find that it’s not really a sacrifice. Because God promises in the Bible, in the book of Malachi, that He will bless you. And the 90% that’s left will stretch farther than the 100% ever could before. That’s what we’ve found to be true, anyway. And we’ll be talking more in a few weeks in our You Asked for It series.

So with this whole idea of training and growing to spiritual maturity and becoming more like Jesus, it is going to require some sacrifices. At least on the front end. But the payoff is always worth it.

5.    Spiritual training must be under the direction of God

In the original Karate Kid movie, you had the great memorable lines…

“Wax on, wax off.”
“Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything.” (great tribute to that in the movie)
“Sweep the Leg” was a phrase from the movie that was made into a song by No More Kings.
And there was even a Chicago-based rock band who named itself “Sweep the Leg, Johnny”

Well, the new movie has no real match for “Wax on, wax off.” But there was one great line…

“Being still and doing nothing are two very different things.”
~ Mr. Han

Man, when I heard that, I immediately thought of Psalm 46:10…

Psalm 46:10 (NLT)
“Be still, and know that I am God!”

Even in spiritual training, it’s not all about action. It’s not all about doing. It’s not all about reading and studying and praying and going to church and serving and giving…

It’s ultimately about submitting. It’s about recognizing that God has first place in your life. It’s being still before Him long enough for Him to speak into your life, to reveal Himself to you, to develop character within you… It’s talking the time to meditate on His Word… It’s being still before Him in humble worship.

Because really, spiritual growth is not about what we do; it’s about what God does. It’s how He moves in our lives and shapes us into the people He intends for us to be. Yes, we make ourselves available and we create the environment for growth and we stretch ourselves and we train by practicing these spiritual habits or disciplines. But when it comes right down to it, He is the One who makes us grow.

Isaiah 64:8 (NLT)
And yet, LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We are all formed by your hand.

Spiritual growth is primarily about God taking us and shaping us, transforming us into the people He wants us to be.

1 Corinthians 3:7 (NIV)
So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

We’re going to be talking a lot more about spiritual training and spiritual growth later this Fall. But is that your desire? Is it your aim to grow spiritually, and to continue to grow throughout your life? Are you devoted to putting the time and focus into it? Is it your desire to become more like Jesus? If so, then why not pray something like this. Just quietly, where you are, pray this…

Father, I want to become the person You want me to be. Take me and train me. Mould me. Make me more like You. I trust you, and I choose to follow you wherever that may lead. In Jesus’ name I pray… Amen.



Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2010 SunriseOnline.ca