There was at least one occasion in my life when every physical fitness goal I had was finally achieved. I recall smiling with satisfaction and glowing confidence as the mirror reflected what faithful adherence to a demanding exercise regimen can produce. I should probably mention that I did happen to be dreaming at the time. When I woke up, I was the same plump, dumpy-looking mess I was when I went to sleep, and what the mirror really revealed was irrefutable evidence that wearing loose-fitting clothing and staying away from beaches in the summer is a really good idea.
I did have occasional fantasies of being a physical hunk in my younger days, and at one point actually bought some equipment to make it happen. The authors of the advertising literature on the set of barbells I bought described an almost magical process wherein my marshmallow-like physique would be transformed into a chiseled specimen of human muscular development. I had visions of girls fanning themselves to keep from fainting when I walked by. What the fraudulent advertisers should have said was that those iron refugees from a junkyard were ridiculously heavy, hard to pick up, and would mainly serve to highlight what a hopeless weakling I was. They also added fuel to my suspicion that those guys adorning the pages of muscle magazines weren’t really from this planet anyway.
Fast forward to today . . . The concept of physical fitness that plagued me briefly in my youth has returned to haunt me. Having had three major joint replacements in the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to add a number of physical therapists to my list of acquaintances. For the most part, they are wonderful people intent on subjecting me to any torture that holds the slightest chance of improving my physical functioning. Therapists have a unique ability to smile and say nice things as they put us through maneuvers that prompt impassioned pleas to God for deliverance. I’ve wondered at times if Paul may have been given a vision of a future physical therapy clinic when he talked about the Spirit interceding for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. Romans 8:26 (NKJV)
A Challenging Transition ~
Now after months of being twisted, pushed, pulled, and bent into better “health,” I’m being transitioned from the PT clinic to a “physical fitness” program in a gym. My smiling therapists are being replaced by “trainers,” a term probably developed in some military boot camp. At least the torturous routines at the PT clinic sounded positive and tolerable because they were referred to as “therapy.” Somehow all that uplifting, beneficial tone gets lost when the sessions are described as a “workout.” Just repeating the term in my head was enough to cause beads of perspiration to begin to form and it got worse when I visited the place. Facing the array of threatening machines lined up against me brought to mind those “Transformer” movies where evil mechanical robots that hate human beings set out to take over the world. The grimaced faces of those locked in a life or death struggle with their metallic adversaries and the bodies dripping with sweat were graphic illustrations of what awaits me. It was clear that the quest to attain “physical fitness” was going to be a journey marked by challenges and obstacles
Fitness Comes at a Price ~
Physical fitness is more than a description of one’s status in regard to a list of standardized measurements like weight, muscle tone, heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and body mass index. It also implies a better than average capacity for physical performance and many suggest that it has a strong positive effect on mental and emotional functioning and the effectiveness of the body’s immune system as well. All in all, physical fitness brings a desirable collection of benefits with it. Small wonder, then, that in spite of the challenging systematic “workouts” it demands, the fact that it’s a multi-billion dollar industry in this country makes it clear that people are willing to pay the price for fitness in more ways than one.
Now, suppose we shift gears a bit and consider the fitness issue from a spiritual perspective. We mentioned that our natural tendency in the physical realm is to gravitate to activities, attitudes, and diets that are counter-productive to our physical health and well being, but in the spiritual realm, it’s probably even worse. We are prone to want all the benefits of spiritual strength and health without having to consistently perform the demanding exercises it requires. Unfortunately, the blessings attendant with righteous living don’t come without the self-discipline that precedes them. The power that comes with fervent prayer requires straining against the weight of the burdens that produce it, and the spiritual muscles we all want can’t grow if all they get is a diet of Biblical junk food. Real strength depends on digesting the strong meat of God’s Word. We know that we can’t develop into vibrant physical specimens by working out only once a week for an hour or so, and we can be assured that it won’t work in the spiritual realm either.
Created to Work ~
It’s beyond reasonable debate that human bodies were created to work. We’re healthier, stronger, and more capable physically when we regularly activate challenge those systems that God built into us. In other words, physical workouts are vital to optimum functioning. That same principle applies spiritually as well. When our spiritual capacities are exercised regularly, we’re healthier and more capable and effective in carrying out the tasks we’re called to do, and we can do them with a greater sense of joy in the process. Paul encouraged us all with his admonitions like this:
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NKJV)
…that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; Colossians 1:9-11 (NKJV)
...that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, Ephesians 3:16 (NKJV)
Our physical workouts in the gym may not be pleasant, but when we envision the potential rewards, we can engage in them with determination and perseverance. Think about the difference that could be made if we applied that same perspective by engaging in some genuine spiritual workouts that would help us overcome the deluge of moral and ethical challenges confronting us on a daily basis.
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- “We are prone to want all the benefits of spiritual strength and health without having to consistently perform the demanding exercises it requires.” GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The power that comes with fervent prayer requires straining against the weight of the burdens that produce it, and the spiritual muscles we all want can’t grow if all they get is a diet of Biblical junk food.” GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “It’s beyond reasonable debate that human bodies were created to work. We’re healthier, stronger, and more capable physically when we regularly activate challenge those systems that God built into us.” GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “When our spiritual capacities are exercised regularly, we’re healthier and more capable and effective in carrying out the tasks we’re called to do, and we can do them with a greater sense of joy in the process.” GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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