So I’ve been trying to get in the habit of exercising lately. When I played sports, I exercised because I wanted to get a little stronger, a little faster . In the years since, I have exercised off and on for a multitude of reasons, among them: boredom, sense of duty, and the false idea that I might once again wear those old clothes I’ve saved. I now realize those clothes have been out of fashion for a decade, and probably weren’t very fashionable to begin with. So I have finally approached exercise for the same reason millions of others do: getting fat. Now I’m not saying I’m fat and I don’t want you to respond to that or get sidetracked by it. What I AM saying is that I have reached a place and time in my life where I am gaining weight in a way that is not good or healthy for me. And so I am trying to exercise. Oddly enough, I have found the most success on the elliptical while watching Top Chef. Ironic, don’t you think?
Last week as I was leaving our cheap but effective little gym, I had a thought that I wanted to share today. I no longer approach exercise with some idea that I will get stronger, become more muscular, or be a part of some ESPN highlight. I am merely employing a delaying tactic in the inevitable loss to old age and muscle loss, not to mention a larger belly.
But I realized that this is the exact approach most of us bring to Bible study. We put just enough time and effort into it to keep us at the level we are at. We don’t put enough discipline into it to make us better, to make us a weapon. We don’t have any illusions of being a spiritual highlight reel. And approaching it assuming that we never will be.
I love this quote by Thomas a Kempis from The Imitation of Christ:
“According to our resolution so is the rate of our progress, and much diligence is needful for him who would make good progress. For if he who resolveth bravely oftentimes falleth short, how shall it be with him who resolveth rarely or feebly?”
To put it a different way, running a marathon is hard, even for those who have trained for it. If those who are devoted to the cause only finish some of the time, what chance do those of us have who train by eating pizza and drinking cokes? Paul compares our spiritual life to a race: “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 other, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Cor. 9:24-27).
I don’t want to train my whole life to be average. I want to win. I don’t want to accept a steady natural decline in my walk with Christ. I don’t want to lose any fervor for my Savior; in fact, I want to fall more deeply in love, and live that way daily. I need to be as aggressive as I can in my spiritual training. Not just trying to stay in the same place, but trying to improve… a lot. And maybe I’ll work a little harder on the elliptical as well.
20 thoughts on “Does My Soul Look Fat In These Pants?”
Wow that is so true and so timely. I can really identify with your whole example of the gym and how that motivation compares to our relationship with Christ. But, I had never thought of it that way. Thanks for that AHHH moment. Really something to think about.
As God’s children we should strive to live and do everything passionately and with excellence; to love Jesus with the fire of our first love, be intentional about our walk and relationship with Him and others, and share His hope and compassion with all around us. We are called to be the best we can be, in Him and for His glory 🙂
As usual Todd you shed light on what we know but often push back in the corner…and your Illustration was very good. Funny,I attended a church this past week that seemed to have the same message..It was about crowns..how each of us should be eagerly working to earn those crowns that will be stored up in heaven for us…and not so we can walk around heaven showing off our crowns to each other..no so that when we do meet our Lord we will have something of value to give to him… our true devotion and worship that will be reflected in those crowns. It should not be enough to reach heavens gate, especially empty handed.. how shameful would that be. No we must run the race as you say with the determination to win the prize…. for our King .
Just want to comment that I needed this, enjoyed this, and am glad for some reason I clicked today on the link in my Facebook to here! Thanks Todd!
Great analogy and so true. I am about to turn 50 and while I love the way working out makes me feel physically…mentally I was having to drag myself to the gym. I decided that the time spent at the gym was going to be more time spent with the Lord. I love to get on the treadmill and listen to praise music and some of my best reading comprehension of God’s word has been on the treadmill…..yes you can read on the treadmill or the eilptical. God with a side of endorphins, what a combo 😀
Those are the same exact words God has been speaking to me recently! It’s always encouraging to get that confirmation from him through others. Thanks for sharing!
Great thoughts! As for the physical aspect of things, I think you have to find what works best for YOU. For me it’s running. I never thought I would like it, but I do. Blast a little Lecrae, FF5, or Skillet in my ears and GO. Unfortunately, I’ve been sidelined from running with an injury. (I’m sure there’s a great message in that somewhere.)
As for the spiritual aspect of things. Yeah…you’re totally right, but I don’t like HARD. And any kind of training is HARD. I’m working through what one might call a spiritual injury as well. We left our church of 18 years in Dec. and have just now found a church we feel we might call home. God has been faithful through all of the changes, and the hard stuff…why do I think that being diligent in the other hard stuff won’t pay off? Bottom line- I’m lazy!
Thanks for the great post!
About two years ago, I set a goal to lose thirty pounds in 30 days and just about made it… than I hit a road block and lost focus.. ended up gaining 50 back… Do you think the same thing happens with our faith? Do we have spurts of focused faith where we feel ourselves really connecting, but something happens, our own personal roadblock, and we start to lose that focus… and find ourselves further from God than where we were? I can say that I feel that sometimes but it’s only through retrospective hindsight (from the department of redundancy department) that I recognize it… all part of my own humanness and my inner struggle, but I know that my personal trainer is always there for me when I need Him… and on a side note, my treadmill tv show is Man vs. Food… and if you’ve seen my belly lately, man is winning…
Right on time, Todd. Right on time. I’ve been struggling with the same thing. Lost some weight nearly 3 years ago and have found it and am not finding the desire to regularly devote time and excellent effort to exercise. So what am I doing typing?! Like others here, I’ll more intentionally combine exercise and soul feeding…and perhaps God will be glorified. Out to run the race. Grace and peace.
Thank you Todd. In the past month I have started walking, because I want to see my grandchildren. Now I am in my late thirties and my children are all under 10, so grandchildren are a while off. Yet if we do not take care of what we have been given. Then where are we?
Also the analogy with being a disciple is wonderful. Our Savior gave us the greatest gift ever, and what do we give Him in return? Mostly the leftovers… He deserves much more!
Our relationship with God is like other relationships, if we don’t spend time nurturing it, it will erode.
I work out because I don’t want to be old and frail; getting old is unavoidable, but quality of life and extended independence are appealing. Then of course, there’s that pesky vanity thing.
Oh, and the blog title is great!
this is so true i love the way you put it how we need to be passionate about everything we do and not do the minimum u should write a book!!!
Thank you for sharing, I just turned 44 and life has been smacking me around with Ulcerative Colitis, and now being hit with Diabetes and the onset of arthritis from the UC I have been progressively gaining weight over the past years and finding that unlike in my youth it’s a lot harder to drop the older you get, and feeling crappy and depressed doesn’t help motivate me. Your message really inspired me today. I have been seeing your post on FB but today I actually clicked the link. I have been reading a book on getting back to eating the way God intended us to and have begun changing my diet and have lost few pounds!! By placing my exercise in the same aspect of my spiritual life stuck a note with me, both with my approach to God and my exercise, and as always you have been an inspiration to me. From the first time I heard Grace Like Rain on a flight to Boston after coming to Christ, to seeing you weeks later at a concert in New Holland, PA (coincidence or a God thing). Being new to this following Jesus thing your music really helped me on my journey and opened my eyes very quickly to Him and how I was to be. Thank you for being a vessel for our Lord, and your continued commitment in serving and sharing God’s word!
I agree so much wisdom!
God has such a funny way of pointing things out to us. I just returned from a national conference where I was challeneged by “What is enough for God?” How many people are enough to be saved? I think His answer would be so huge, and we are so quick to settle for far less. I want desperately to win the race for Him. Is that scary…terryifying. Is it worth it, most definitely. Thanks for the reminder.
Well Todd, this 50 year old grandfather of 2 says: If you had a real job, you wouldn’t have that problem! No just kidding! I’m going to pay for that. ;o).
Of course I agree. Is the solution a program or regimen?
Jesus said “Abide in Me and I in you. You can not bear fruit except you abide in ME”. And Paul buffets his body (to strike as with the hand) not to be confused with buffeting your body (to stuff from a buffet table)
Good FOOD FOR THOUGHT, Todd, thanks!
Do you know what’s weird? What’s weird is that I have been thinking on this same thing. Are we serving God just so that we can say that we are serving God?
I’m in a wheelchair, and exercise is vital for me. I cannot afford to become any weaker. That is just like our walks with God. We are so weak that we cannot afford to become any weaker.
I am at a Christian school. How many of us are actually Christians?
Thanks for the reality check, Mr. Agnew!!
I agree with Tess – great title.
I love that you say you do not want to train hard to just be average. I relate to that.
And I say if you are doing the eliptical, watch whatever makes the time fly by!
I work out to be healthy. I had a toxic exposure that tried to take my life and I had some health issues, then middle-age crept up. Working-out is harder. If I have to work out this hard, I sure am not going for mediocre!
I go through seasons where I feel physically fat and lazy,
(I read a sign that says “There is a skinny woman screaming to get out. I keep her sedated with chocolate.” Yeah, some days that is me, I’m afraid, just add Mexican anything, with guacamole).
But I have seasons where I can’t stand to miss a day -like right now-my water aerobics is fabulous – the harder I work-out, the better I feel the rest of the day – seems ironic, but true, and I wake up excited to go even if I am tired and know it will be a tougher day to get through.
There are seasons in life when I feel spiritually fat and lazy. I don’t want to take the time to be spiritually fit. The spiritual person gets sedated by worldly cares. And then I have seasons where I feel lost if I miss a day in study and prayer. I NEED the spiritual work-out. It is exciting!
I want to finish the race still running straight into Jesus’ arms.
Thank you for sharing these thoughts…I know it hit me in the core.