I had such grand plans for 2010 in the exercise department. But, alas, between my schedule and my dislike of most physical activity, things have not worked out exactly as I envisioned. I’ve not completely bombed, but my sporadic attack on the world of exercise is not the best strategy. I need help!
So, I joined an exercise class, and you want to hear something ironic? The class is held at the same facility where I go get my beloved massage every month. How can the same place hold such an pleasant allure and also be my local house of blood, sweat, and tears? I saw how both pleasure and pain can work together when I started seeing the parallels between the world of physical and spiritual health.
In the Beginning
Before I started the class, I observed a session to see if it offered what I needed. It did! It wasn’t straight aerobics, but rather focused on participants individually. If someone did not have the same cardiovascular stamina as others or was hindered by a physical limitations, the instructor modified each activity to match the need. I have no cardio stamina and have arm limitations due to long-ago surgery, so I appreciated the necessary accommodations.
It’s the same way with God. Many give Him a good “look-over” before they see that He does, indeed, have what they they need: Jesus Christ who provides forgiveness for sins. There are many benefits that go along with accepting God through Jesus Christ. Just like getting physically fit takes time and effort, so does being spiritually fit. But, both are important.
Additionally, just like my instructor understands that no two people are alike, so does God. He understands that every one of His children have different needs and He accommodates those needs. We all have varying elements of sinful fat and cellulite that we bring into God’s kingdom, and He knows what will address our specific problem areas. Thus, none of us need to feel shameful as we workout with God.
I cannot even begin to describe the soreness that set in that first week of classes. I hurt in places I did not know existed! But, pain is all part of the process as I start to work and tone different muscles.
It’s the same way with our spiritual life. As we stretch the muscles required for spiritual health, it can and will hurt.
The Faith Muscle
Did you know faith is a spiritual muscle that needs to be constantly worked? Before I joined my class I had to have faith that the sessions would provide the right elements to get back in shape. Since the exercises looked effective and the instructor, Rita, had great credentials, I signed up. I had faith in the program.
It’s the same with Christianity. An element of faith is required to sign up to be in God’s spiritual class. That initial step of faith is great, but just like physical strength and well-being must be maintained by working muscles on a regular basis, the same holds true with God. Faith isn’t a one-time deal. Christians must always stretch and flex the faith muscle. Whether it is working through the small things popping up daily or a major issue that warrants much prayer and energy to overcome, our faith muscle need to be strong and effective.
The Hope Muscle
How about the hope muscle? That one requires exercise, too. Before I joined the class my hope was to get more physically fit and during my first session, Rita asked what my specific goals were. I really don’t need to lose weight so I told her I wanted to take an inch or two off my waist (the flabby consequences of an insatiable appetite for chips and salsa).
My hope is to sweat and fight my way through each class so that the flab around my waist will melt away. Hope works the same way in God’s world, and we must have hope in so many areas. We hope to grow through tough times. We hope that God will deliver us from cruel circumstances. We don’t always know how He will work things out, but we have hope in His deliverance. We may experience pain and shed many tears during those sessions of blood, sweat, and tears, but our hope in Him carries us through.
The Obedience Muscle
Lastly, what about the obedience muscle? During one of my class sessions, Rita had us jump rope without ropes. Without realizing it, I was cheating! My feet were not leaving the ground. If I had been using a real jump rope, I would have immediately realized my error, but without a tangible rope I didn’t know I was being a disobedient. It took several reminders before I started doing things right, but I eventually got it.
It’s the same with God. In the Bible He provides great instructions how to do things, but because it isn’t always tangible, we sometimes don’t do things right. Just like doing exercises wrong does not yield the best results, neither does allowing our obedience muscle to lay dormant. Between natural consequences and God’s discipline, We get ourselves in trouble if that muscle is not working properly.
If we ignore our physical health we risk long-term, negative effects. If we choose to ignore our spiritual health, we risk long-lasting consequences which include spiritual death and eternal separation from God.
Practical Christianity recognizes the importance of exercising and flexing our our spiritual muscles. We may never hold any earthy titles like Miss Olympia, but we will be teamed up with the greatest Trainer in the Universe, Jesus! So, don’t be afraid to flex those spiritual muscles!