I have been contemplating the physical grind to our bodies as we get older to “get” and then “stay” in shape, relating that to our spiritual lives. Weight gain seems to happen naturally for some of us, and it seems we are always thinking about or starting yet another exercise routine because we want to lose the extra weight accumulated as a result of overeating, stress, inactivity, or other changes to our lifestyles. Or maybe we find ourselves out of shape, without the stamina we once had and unable to enjoy life. It seems as we get older it is easier “physically” to stay in shape than get back into shape once out. However it is more difficult “mentally” to stay in shape because of a lack of time, energy, and motivation.
Thus we get into an unhealthy physical cycle of getting out of shape because we are not mentally strong and disciplined to stay in shape. We decide to take breaks from training our bodies, and forget that “break time” is over. There are other reasons we take extended breaks from staying in shape which are out of our control because life happens; hurts, illnesses, death of loved ones, disease, accidents, injuries, to name a few in which we may need extra time and help to get back into training.
Most of the time however, we just get tired, need a break, and choose not to “resume” training. We then find the daunting task of regaining momentum too far out of reach so we do nothing. However this should not be a point of discouragement but rather it should awaken in us a desire to be all we can be – including – giving control over to God for our entire beings – and cooperating with Him in training.
We are given the responsibility and privilege of caring for our bodies, the temples of Holy Spirit. The results of the work and exercise it takes to lose extra weight OR to get and stay in shape outweighs the discomfort and pain involved in the process. If we do it all to the glory of God, it becomes a privilege rather than a burden. However there is one truth which stands- it will still be hard!
The same scenario can be painted spiritually. Getting in shape spiritually or losing the extra baggage we have accumulated can be equally brutal. We can get out of shape spiritually the same way we do physically. We get older, things happen, and we stop exercising our faith. Just as we cannot afford to let our bodies determine what we can and cannot do through disuse or abuse, we cannot allow ourselves spiritually to get out of shape.
When we understand we as God’s creation are intricately woven together, we then comprehend the harmony involved in body, mind, soul, and spirit. We realize we cannot establish one part and not another. If we are out of control in one area of our lives; body, mind, or spirit, it will have an impact on all the other parts. When we see ourselves as amazing creations of God, willing to do anything and everything to present ourselves wholly to Him as living sacrifices, we are motivated to run the race set before us. The question becomes how are we going to run?
Hebrews 12: 1 says “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” The competition out there is demanding. We must run the race until completion no matter what age or how out of shape we are. How fun it is to know we get fans or cheerleaders to motivate us as we get in shape. They surround us as we lay aside every weight, hindrance, and sin that draws us in and traps us. We get to run, not walk, with endurance or stamina!
We find encouragement and direction as to how to do this in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
We are all in the race. I will emphasize again the harmony of “self”. When our bodies are sick it is difficult to focus spiritually. When we are disobedient to God and do not experience His peace, we get stressed, and our bodies become unbalanced. Our spiritual and physical beings are interconnected. I hear Christians say they are not competitive, athletic, or not trained in how to care for their bodies. Yet God’s Word reveals to us we are all runners and we run to obtain. We are all spiritual athletes and competitors; we simply need to see ourselves competing. We all have the ability to gain knowledge on caring for our whole bodies. We simply need to obtain knowledge. Paul uses the analogy of a boxer who beats the air as he trains. We are not to be like that boxer. We know exactly what we are fighting for; the crown of everlasting life.
Friends, we all know when we are physically gaining weight or getting out of shape. We do not really need a scale to tell us, do we? We can tell when we strain to get into our present clothes and feel the need to go “up” a size. We can tell when we look in the mirror and the person looking back at us is not who we once were. We can tell by the achy, tired, worn-out feelings we experience. We can tell by our lack of enthusiasm for life. We can tell by the attitude of “I’ll get around to losing weight or getting in shape tomorrow.”
We also know when we are getting out of shape spiritually. We do not really need other people to tell us do we? We can tell by our lack of hunger for God’s Word. We can tell from our lack of zeal to do the works Jesus did while He walked on earth. We can tell by our lack of involvement of service unto the Lord. We can tell by our resistance to worship and praise, prayer and intercession, and fellowship with the saints. We can tell by the level of our disappointment and discouragement leading to depression and abandonment of the call on our lives. We can tell by our willingness to live status quo and giving ourselves over to the desires of our flesh.
The problem with both scenarios is we avoid “dealing” with those things “we can tell”. We expect God to give us a quick and painless “fix” once we have identified what is wrong. We live under the impression we will simply ask God for help and He will supernaturally make it easy. God NEVER makes things easy. He will simplify things for us and make the way smooth, but He has never promised to make our way easy. He will be with us, direct, strengthen, teach, and remind us of His way. He will love us through it all, and He will pour out His grace and mercy upon us as we run. The bottom line is we still have to compete in every area of our life. And better yet, we “get” to compete. But it will be HARD!
Athletes train more fervently when there is a contest approaching. For example, when training for a marathon runners focus on eating properly, getting adequate rest, and methodical work-outs in order to be in peak performance when the race is at hand. After each race they still eat properly, rest adequately, and train, though the work-outs may not be as strenuous. Every true runner takes a short amount of time to recover from the race they just ran but then begins gearing up for the next competition. Athletes of every kind operate this way.
We all have this same responsibility because we are all spiritual athletes! We must see the benefits of training for a lifetime not just for one race. When we are not training for a specific purpose we still eat and rest. Let us purpose also to still train so we are in shape when God calls us to our next phase of the race. We have the privilege to stay in shape physically and spiritually and we have the Word of God to show us how.
I pray we are persuaded after reading His Word to do just that, no matter how old or young we are, no matter how out of shape we are, and no matter how overweight we are! We are more than able to be all He has created us to be! I pray we are encouraged to run the race set before us as never before and desire to be in shape in body, mind, soul, and spirit at all times. Impossible is not a word in God’s vocabulary. Wherever we find ourselves today, it is a new day and I pray we all run with endurance, and run to obtain the prize!!!