As some of you know, I’ve been working this year on being physically healthier. I’ve lost 70 lbs eating better and doing cardio type exercises, but I have realised that I also need to get stronger rather than just losing weight. Jennifer and I started a new workout routine (Here is what we have been using- LIFT4). I was excited to start lifting weights again, but the soreness is ridiculous. The pain hurts, but it also feels good. The good feeling comes from me knowing that I am reforming my body, shedding fat I don’t need, and helping shape my muscles into a form that is more healthy.
All of this led me to think about how God shapes us into his image. In Luke 9:23 it says, “23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” This pattern works for both physically shaping our bodies and spiritually shaping our hearts. Our pattern for our hearts, bodies, and minds should be to put aside our preferences, work out daily, do the hard work, and to be guided by a coach
- Put aside our preferences (deny himself)- I need to be honest. I know I need to be healthy, but there are definitely days that I don’t want to work out. I would rather sit on the couch, watch TV, and eat a whole bunch of wheat thins (those are my favorite snacks for years). If I left it up to me, most days I wouldn’t work out. I don’t always want to put in the work it takes to grow and change my body. I would rather sit on the couch and watch TV. The Christian life is the same as working out. Sometimes God stretches you in areas that are uncomfortable. He stretches us and grows us. We have to work at growing spiritually, but sometimes we want to just sit on the proverbial couch and watch TV. We don’t want God to stretch and grow us. We don’t want him to put us in uncomfortable situations. We want comfort and ease, but the question we have to ask is, “Is that what we need?”
- Work our daily (take up his cross daily) – I know some people work out early in the morning. That definitely is not me. I get up at 5:15am or before to do my quiet time with God, get breakfast together for Jennifer, and for us to do a devotion together. Then I take my shower and get the boys up and ready for school. There is no time in there for me to wake up. Some of you may be saying, “Bryan, why don’t you get up earlier to work out?” BECAUSE I LIKE SLEEP!!!! Sleep will win every time. So, Jennifer and I work out in the evenings after we have put the boys in bed. It’s a time for us to be together doing something (not something we love because it hurts, but something none the less). We keep each other accountable and encourage each other to go and work out. It is something that we have found we have to be disciplined to do each and every day. If we miss a day, we see that it is harder to start the next. If we lose 2 or more days, then it becomes almost impossible for us to have the get-up and go to start over. Our walk with Christ is like this. Our moulding and shaping is something that doesn’t happen once a week or twice a month but is a minute by minute daily activity. We have to be disciplined and willing to make this an everyday occurrence.
- Work Hard (take up his cross)- The workout program that we are currently doing doesn’t have specific weight guidelines for the exercises. It just says to have a light, medium, and heavyweight, but it leaves the particular weights of those dumbbells up to the person who is lifting. I have to admit that there have been times that a particularly hard exercise has been coming up and I have wanted to switch to a lighter weight even though I knew that the heavier weight would do more shaping of my body. Christ was like this. In the Garden of Gethsemane he was praying and asked his Father if there was any other way to do it, but if not he was ready to do the hard thing of dying on the Cross for humanity’s sins. He suffered through sham trials, brutal beatings, wicked humiliation, and to top it all off, he had to carry his own cross that he would be hung out to the top of the hill he would die on. Christ was willing to do the hard work on our behalf so that we would have the opportunity to accept the free gift of his grace. We need to be willing to do the hard and uncomfortable work of growing in Christ each day.
- Allow a coach to guide you (follow me)- I spent countless hours in a gym when I was younger (and my knees felt WAY better). I understand what the machines and free weight benches in the gym are there for and what muscles you can work by using said machines/benches. The problem I have is that when I walk in the gym, my mind begins to wander. I lose focus about halfway through my workout amid the tedium of doing 3-5 sets of the same exercise. I need someone there to guide, encourage, and discipline me during my workouts. The Christian life is like this too. Jesus has already gone ahead of us and shown us the example we are to live for. He gave us a helper (the Holy Spirit) to be with us after he ascended back to the right hand of his Father. Jesus is our spiritual workout coach.
I know that I will struggle with beating my body into shape for the rest of my life, just as I will fight with my spiritual health as well. It is a journey, and we need to encourage and disciple each other while on that journey.