Working Out and Following Jesus – Part 2: sacrifice for a purpose

May 14th, 2009

I wrote a few days ago on the fitness concept of working out in order to become motivated to work out, and how similar that is to doing “God’s will”. Sometimes we need to step out in faith and just act, and then God will lead us or give us more direction.

But there are many other comparisons to be made…

Sometimes when I’m monotonously taking step after step on the stair machine, or lunging to the point that it feels like my legs are going to give out, I observe my own actions as well as those around me. The gym is filled, day-after-day, with people working towards a goal they have in mind. Be it health, weight loss, muscle-gain, endurance training, we all share a ‘no pain, no gain’ mentality. We have hope, and faith, that if we persist through the toil, we will come out better on the other end.

I enjoy working out for several reasons, but there are days when I’d rather be going out to dinner with friends or taking care of chores at home. But I go to the gym in a routine fashion, fully believing that if I put myself through some pain and difficulty and sacrifice a few things I’d rather be doing, that it’ll all pay off. Why else would I do squats or bicep curls that cause my muscles to burn and ache, or run interval sprints that wear me out? I have confidence that the momentary discomfort will make me stronger, faster, leaner, and help me to look and feel the way I hope for.
In other words, I’m willing to go through some discomfort and pain for something that I can’t see or assure, but that I believe is for my good, for a bigger purpose. And apparently, so are a lot of other people I see in the gym on a daily basis.

I constantly think about my life and how I’m living it for Christ. Am I sacrificing it enough? Am I too comfortable? Am I doing things that are hard, scary, difficult, because I know they’ll result in the saving of souls and God’s glory? Am I being lazy (like when I cop out and walk on a treadmill for 30 minutes just to say I did something that day) and just getting by? Or am I doing all I can do for God, knowing that the momentary discomfort is nothing compared to the treasure in Heaven? If I am aiming to be like Jesus, it is clear from the Bible that my life will include trials, persecution, discomfort, and doing things out of faith, trusting that he will provide the results.

I recently put a verse up on my mirror to read every day that is a perfect example of this from the apostle Paul:

“When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” – 1 Cor. 9:22-27

I wish I could say I have this nailed. That I do what Paul did. That I discipline the way I live my life the same way I discipline my physical body. I wish I could say I take every opportunity to share Christ with those who don’t know him, that I pushed through discomfort to tell every person I encounter about him. I don’t. Not even close.

But when I’m on a cardio machine with sweat pouring down my face, or lifting a weight to the point that my muscles are shaking and can’t lift anymore, I wonder why I seem to train well for a ‘prize’ that will fade, while taking the easy way out when it comes to what really matters…

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