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.