I own two seasons of The Ultimate Fighter, and both of them provide a little entertainment and inspiration whenever my wife is out of the house (she isn't crazy about sports). Some might be offended that I watch the UFC because of the violence or the ring girls or the cussing, but that offense overlooks the main reasons why mixed martial-arts is so attractive to so many serious Christian men: the aspects that we enjoy are the intensity, dedication, and humility involved, and the brotherhood among fighters. These are important aspects in our goal of living a Holy Spirit-driven life. We're flesh and blood people, and we need human examples to show us spiritual truths. So when I see how these fighters train and lean heavily on their coaches I gain an understanding about what it looks like to train in godliness and lean heavily on the Spirit. Although bodily training has limited value, and godliness is of value in every way (1 Timothy 4.8), aspects from one can provide helpful lessons about the other.
The Holy Spirit Is My Coach
First, godliness is a fight, and it is a battle every day when I attempt to take my sinful flesh and fallen nature and train them to live in the image of God (1 Corinthians 9.25-26). In that fight, the Holy Spirit is my coach (John 15.26) whom the Lord Jesus called the Helper who guides us (John 16.13). The contestants on The Ultimate Fighter are constantly listening to directions from their coaches while they are fighting in the octagon, and we are to constantly be led by the Spirit while we fight temptation in our desire to live in holiness (Romans 8.14). This is how He does it: (1) The Holy Spirit coaches us by giving instructions (Nehemiah 9.20); (2) He changes us into men who will better fight the battle for personal godliness (Titus 3.5); (3) He equips us with the tools and skills needed to carry out this fight (1 Corinthians 12.1). The Holy Spirit is my Helper and my Coach in the fight to live in God's image. The guys on The Ultimate Fighter train hard and follow their coaches in order to get a contract and fame, but we train and follow the Holy Spirit for a more eternal crown of victory (James 1.12).
I Struggle To Listen to My Coach
Second, the rough truth is, because God is Spirit (John 4.24) and doesn't have a body (1 Timothy 1.17), it's tough to remember to listen to Him. We have His Word and that's enough - but we refuse to listen to it (Luke 16.31). Our prayers are intimately guided by the Holy Spirit - but we often refuse to pray (Jude 1.20). It would be insane and foolish for a fighter not to listen to his coach while he's in the cage, but I know my biggest struggle is that I get so involved in the fighting -blogging, evangelism, apologetics, life- that I put my head down and completely forget to listen to the Holy Spirit and refuse to let Him coach me. It's an authority problem. Either I'm submitting to Him or I'm not. Either I trust Him to give me good instructions or I don't. The problem is that we're bad at listening to the Holy Spirit and we've got this notion that we can do things ourselves (which is going to get us spiritually killed). The solution is to let Him train us through the Word, and then listen to Him during the daily fight through prayer. There's no other way.
Getting Into the Octagon With the Spirit
Third, the Holy Spirit trains us to fight with intensity and dedication. These are action-oriented words. The Holy Spirit regenerates us with new desires (Titus 3.5), so we use those new desires to fight for holiness. Dedication is a training word: if you're getting ready for a fight you're going to persevere through cutting weight, practicing your technique, and studying your opponent. As any athlete would tell you, your life will be consumed by training for the sport. The Spirit helps us to dedicate our lives to the fight for personal holiness. He pushes us to memorize Scripture, discipline our bodies, and establish regular habits for our spiritual good. Intensity is both a fight and a training word: fighters don't just lift a little, run a little, or punch a little; they hit those weights with an all-consuming drive and throw haymakers like their lives depend on it. With the Holy Spirit coaching us on we are to live spiritual lives of intensity that cannot be called lukewarm (Revelation 3.16) by anybody, memorizing and evangelizing and conquering sin with a drive that eclipses and shapes everything else around us. The Spirit pushes us and guides us into spiritual lives of intensity and dedication.
A Brotherhood of Fellow Fighters
Fourth, under a good coach, you'll become part of a group of fighters who represent a particular team or gym. That coach gives you a place to belong and connects you to others fighters through him, a sort of brotherhood of mixed-martial artists. The Holy Spirit does this also. The gifts of the Holy Spirit make us one body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12.13) and we are all connected to God and to each other through the one Holy Spirit (John 17.21). Before Jesus was crucified, He prayed for us all to be one, just as the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father (John 17.11). The Holy Spirit makes us all part of one another. Wrapping this all up, the Holy Spirit gives us: (1) guidance and instruction; (2) pushes us in dedication and intensity; (3) and connects us in Him to a brotherhood of fellow Christians.
A Quick Note On Being All About Morality
As a good Calvinist, I've got to be sensitive about making the Christian life seem like a moral pursuit. It's not. The truth is, the Holy Spirit is not just our coach. He dwells inside of us (Romans 8.9) and helps us in our weakness (Romans 8.26). He regenerates us - that means He takes us as sinful people and does the heavy lifting of changing us so that we can live for God. The message here, as with the Gospel, is not do this, but receive Him. You have not received the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry out to God, "Father!" (Romans 8.15). It's not just about following the rules of the Holy Spirit, it's that He heals us of our wickedness and forms us into the Image of God.