January 11, 2014

Spiritual Lessons from the Gym


Early in 2013, I switched gyms and worked with a trainer who helped me put together a program that led to a huge increase in my fitness level throughout the year.

I also spent some time reading exercise and strength training books and articles. I found several principles about working out and exercising that made it easier for me to understand why I needed do to the things I needed to do.

Some of the principles are:

“You must become comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

“You must do what you do not always enjoy doing.”

“You must get enough rest; relax, and reward yourself for accomplishing a major goal.”

“What you eat and drink---food---will determine what you are capable of doing.”

More and more, these principles seemed to also have a spiritual application.

1 Corinthians 9:24, etc., says it this way:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

The good thing about the Christian life is that everyone who wants to win can.

The hard thing about the Christian life is that no one wins without following a training program. The training program has already been set up.

If I do not consume the right “spiritual food” (Scripture, prayer, good fellowship, Sabbath rest, listening to God), I won’t be capable of doing what I am supposed to do. There will be no resources for me to draw on, no reserve of energy waiting to empower me to finish what I have begun.

It is OK to say “no” to someone asking me to do just “one more little thing.” I must remain aware enough to know my limits and protect those limits. I am not indispensable and flattery will not trick me into attempting more than I should within any day, week, or month.

I do not usually enjoy apologizing to people I have wronged, or extending a hand of reconciliation in a damaged relationship, or trying one more time to forgive the person who has wronged me. But if I don’t do these things, the person and work of the Holy Spirit cannot flow through me as needed, and I will become limited and frustrated and fail to meet my purpose.

How to do I become comfortable with being uncomfortable?

I accept that I must walk by faith, not expecting to fully understand every aspect of everything that happens to me, and trust God to handle my circumstances when I can’t. Over time, my comfort zone will enlarge. If I refuse to experience any discomfort, my comfort zone will stagnate, and possibly shrink, making me less available to do whatever God wants me to do. That’s failure.

The opposite of failure is getting into training and staying there, allowing the lessons of the gym to guide some of my spiritual “strength training.”


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