About a month ago I realized that I was getting way out of shape. I would walk up a flight of stairs and find that as I kept on walking down the hall I could feel my heart thumping. I could feel that my breathing had to be adjusted. In just a couple of flights of stairs I was feeling slight exhaustion!
The kicker was spending a week working with a group of men delivering new computers to 1800 desks throughout a high school and career center in Indy. During that week we walked almost constantly from 7:30am to 4:00pm.
· Walk to the hall that needed updated
· Push a cart full of equipment to the hall
· Lift up an old computer and monitor
· Take it to the proper hallway
· Lift up a new computer put it in the room
· Take in monitors, Keyboards, mice and hook them all up
· Walk to the different rooms and make sure my guys had everything they needed to keep working.
· Go back the main hall and start over
Go, Go, Go, go, go
At the end of the week I found a surprising result. I had lost 6 pounds.
I was shocked. But should I have been surprised?
Last week we read from 1 Corinthians 9 that if we are going to Love people as Jesus Loves us then we must learn to Love them in the way they understand Love. We must “Do” Love. It takes an effort. But if we will make an effort then we can get a Loving result even from someone we hate. Why is it surprising then that if we want a result for ourselves we must put in the effort?
What I found during that job was something that seems so obvious, but we all walk right past it every day. We walk past it, or sit and ignore it, because we don’t want to do the work for the result. Results take work.
It isn’t that you purposefully ignore it. How many of us got up Friday morning and said to ourselves, “I am not going workout this morning. In fact, I’m going to get up and go to work. While I’m there I will sit on my behind and stare at a screen. Then when I get tired of that I’m going to go take a break. Then for lunch I’m going to eat a piece of charred animal flesh soaked in processed fat. I’ll wash all of that down with a glass of brown colored sugar in carbonated water. Then back to sitting on my behind.”
“After a grueling day of that I’m going to go home and sit on my behind and watch TV, and when the gets tough I’m going to browse the web on my computer. This will take hours and hours so I’ll get to bed at midnight.”
“Because all of that took so long I’ll only be able to sleep 4 to 6 hours and then I will wake up and start all over again.”
“Why am I always so tired?”
“Why do I always feel bad?”
“Why don’t I ever progress?”
To quote Bart Simpson, “Well Duh!”
So you want a Biblical reference instead. I think that’s prudent. J
How about if we start where we finished last week. Last week we stopped at 1 Corinthians 9:23 so let’s start at 24…
1 Corinthians 9
24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Whether you know it or not you are in the race we call life. Frankly, whether you want to be in the race or not; you are in the race. The only remaining question is where you’re going to finish. Will you receiver the prize? Will you come in last? Worse yet, will you be left standing by the side of the road gasping for breath?
But life isn’t one race is it? It’s more like a decathlon. It is really more like ten events happening all at once.
· Maintaining the house
· Paying our bills
· Raising children
· Finding and eating healthy food
· Maintaining healthy friendships
· Giving Loving attention to our spouse
All of these things make up the race of life. Some call it the “Rat Race”. Why? Have you ever watched pet rats or, mice, hamsters, gerbils? They race they run is in a wheel and while they may be running they really not getting anywhere.
26b …like a man running aimlessly
26c …like a man beating the air.
They are never going to getting to the end of the race and they certainly are never going to win. Eventually they just quit.
How do we get in a rat race? You take your eyes off of the prize. In other words, you have no goal. So before we launch our race we have to know where we are going.
In our case, of course, we are talking about the race that is our spiritual life for Christ. Paul puts it this way in Philippians, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14) Although we are living in the world if we set our sights on the prizes of this world we will never get off of the Hamster Wheel.
I’ve got news for you. If your goal is to have all you want of the things of this world then you will never have all you want. If your goal is to have the ultimate house then no house will ever be just right. If your goal is to have enough money then you will never have enough money. If your goal is for everyone to Love you then I have some news for you… That is not going to happen.
Jesus puts it this way, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25) No, our prize must be Christ. We must concentrate on that prize and we must change our lives to point to the prize or we will not win it.
27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave
My experience with running around and putting in PC’s all over that school would have been nothing more than a blip in my life if I hadn’t taken the experience and made a change in my life. But what happened instead was a life change. I began working out in the mornings.
If any of you have ever started a training routine you can tell me what day is the hardest.
Getting up on the second day, third day, fourth day, each new day gets harder as the world tells you that you have done enough. Paul tells us that anyone who wants to compete must go into “strict training”. If we are going to be successful in this race we must be about the business of training every day.
What has it involved so far?
First we must be changed. For my physical life it was noticing that I was in trouble and I needed a solution, then a solution presenting itself. I had an experience of finding results in an unexpected place. Moving is good for you… Go figure.
At some point in the life of Christian we must wake up and recognize that God is there waiting to change us for the better. But more importantly, God will put pointers to the problem and solutions in our path. Our job is to respond to His prevenient grace.
For some this can be from positive experience that points out how awesome life can be when lived with God as part of it. It can be a week at Church camp for a child. It can be an evening with Christian friends who help you to see that their life works better with God in it. It can be that God finds you in a quiet moment and calls you home to Him.
God is good for you… Go figure.
But be aware… The difference between a life change and an interesting experience is tomorrow.
For some of us tomorrow has come and we did not continue. At some point you stopped praying regularly. For some you stopped studying the word. If you stopped running would you expect to enter a race and win. Why are you confused that you do not feel the presence of God?
When I got home from that experience I started asking Bryan, a friend of mine who works out, what he would suggest as ways that this couch potato could get going. He told me a story that I think he thought of as just a throw way, but for me it stuck.
Bryan told me that his brother had started using his video game console to work out each morning. The video console, the Nintendo Wii, has a device called the Wii fit. This game provides instruction for activity and it tracks what you are doing. It encourages you and tells you when you do things wrong. After six months he had lost 40 pounds. Hmmmm
I own a Wii console. I need help with what to do. I need someone to let me have it if I don’t do it. So I had my solution. Off I went.
· I purchased the game
· I got my clothes together
· I planned a time when I could do it
· I set the alarm
· I got up and did it.
For six weeks I have been working out with the Wii Fit. It has changed my life in major ways. I now look for the stairs. I find myself enjoying walking long distances because I want to try and walk fast from place to place. It has sparked real change.
But how does that apply to our spiritual walk. How do we successfully spiritually train once we are inspired?
First we need to find someone that can help us understand how to get it done.
In Jesus day they would have called someone who seeking this type guidance a disciple. Like physical training we will be more effective in our spiritual training if we have someone to lead us in the training. We never cease needing be disciples. Even the disciples that followed Jesus continued to be disciples to each other.
Second we need a plan.
A healthy relationship with God does not just happen. We must give time to God. If you do not plan for time with God you will slowly lose your connection to Him and will fail to finish the race. We need to plan time alone with God, time with God’s people, and time with His word.
We must also disciple each other. Even Peter who walked with Christ for three years needed to be corrected by Paul when he began to return to his former ways. No matter who you are or where you are in your walk with God it is your duty to help your fellow follower of Christ to get up again tomorrow and walk the proper walk with Christ.
There was an interesting result for my friend who has been helping me workout. While helping me (harassing me and picking on me about my food and routine) on a regular basis my friend has started getting up and training hard again himself. He said he felt convicted so he was getting up at 5am with me.
Helping others stay on the path keeps you on the path. It is very convicting. It wakes us up to what we saying in a new way. I have said a thousand times. “I am preaching to me.”
One of the hidden benefits of discipling with others is that it rejuvenates our Love for God. We remember that feeling we had when we first came back to God. We remember our first Love. Like watching new Lovers we remember our young Love for each other. We are switched back on. Like a Father taking his child fishing falls in Love with fishing all over again.
We must get up again and again and dedicate ourselves to connecting with God. As much help as another follower may be, unless we come to God in prayer on a regular basis we will fail.
Our God is a God of relationship; relationship with Him and relationship with each other. This relationship requires that we participate not only with ourselves but with others. In relationship to God and His people we work.