If I made a cheesy Christian t-shirt it would say, “God is my personal trainer” with an image of a super buff Jesus making someone do squats or push-ups.
You know what I’m talking about? Those t-shirts with Christian-ese slogans and images that genuinely attempt to share a great message in a creative way, but are mostly just awkward?
A friend and I laughed about this recently, because we both owned (and proudly wore) several of them back in elementary school or junior high.
We joked and brainstormed some of our own ideas.That’s when the “God is my personal trainer” one popped out, because it suits me in my role as a fitness fanatic and trainer.
Yet as I was reading through Revelation 7 recently, I realized that it actually has some truth, and parallels that I think are important to keep in mind.
In Revelation, God is speaking to various churches, and asks them/us to live with high standards of righteousness, to be set apart from the world, and to stand firm in faith no matter what is going on around us or how much the world tries to sway us.
There are also many glimpses into the future – martyrs who persevered in their faith until they stood before the throne of God. They’re given the promise of an eternity of protection, no hunger, living water, no tears. It’s a beautiful, joy-filled picture to imagine them worshipping with the angels after standing tall through tribulation. They stood firm in their faith through trial, and all the pain was worth it.
As a trainer, when I’m working with a client, I’m asking them to act in light of a future that is to come, which holds great potential for a far better way of living.
I intentionally have them do some very challenging things that make them sweat, grunt, complain, and exhaust their bodies. Because I’m masochistic? No, because I can see strength in them that they can’t – both physically and mentally – and know that if they keep persevering, they’re going to get stronger; their bodies will become more capable, endorphins will lift their mood, they’ll feel better, they’ll reduce medical bills, and their self-esteem and confidence will improve.
I know how badly they want to look and feel a certain way, andI have full faith that they can experience it. If they’ll just persevere….
I also ask them not to eat certain things. I ask them to give up a lot of delicious, comforting foods. Because I want to see them suffer and take away joy? Not at all. It’s because I know it will be good for them. That temporary sacrifice will ultimately lead them to a greater joy. I know they’ll see in the end it was all worth it.
Amazingly, they come back to me week after week, allowing me to put them through what feels like torture – and they pay me to do it! – trusting that I know what I’m doing even when they’re in pain.
But do we do this with Jesus? Do we really believe that he knows best and that if we go though the suffering life may require at times, that he truly works all things for our good?
It seems that sometimes it’s easier to beat ourselves up at the gym for a physical accomplishment than it is to trust God when he allows suffering or pain in our lives. We tend to fight it with everything in us, get angry, even walk away because we think God is there to make life easy.
I can tell you this, God is much wiser than I am! He sees much more than I do. So, if I can be trusted to put people through challenges in order to grow, change, and find more joy, can’t God?!
I encourage you, the next time you face a confusing, painful situation in life, to think about the times you’ve overcome a tough workout, and remember that in far greater ways, God is using it ALL for your good!
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4