Physical training is of some value...
But Godliness holds value in all things
Both in this life and in the life to come
For the first time in several years, I'm attempting to stick to a training regiment for a running race - the St. Jude half marathon this coming December right here in my new city. This isn't a big runners city, but there are still a good amount of running races, the St. Jude weekend in December being the granddaddy of them all.
I've taken such a casual attitude toward running for the past few years. I have not pushed myself. I have not made myself hurt. In short, I have not trained. Thus, I have not grown. I've sacrificed long term reward for short term comfort. I suppose I've kept myself mildly active, but I haven't pushed myself to discomfort in a long time.
It is all too easy for me to be an untrained individual. All the entropy leads towards lazy, undisciplined, convenient, instant gratification living.
What are the reasons I don't train? There is little accountability or structure to force me to train. There is little perceived immediate reward. I lack the intrinsic motivation. I'd rather consume and be happy than work hard and hurt. Also, I often suffer from FOMO - if I train for one thing, I'm missing out on something else! The ancient Proverb remains true: "without vision, the people perish."
What are reasons for training? It pushes me over new thresholds, to be stronger, persevering, tough-minded. It brings satisfaction - completing a goal feels good! Ultimately, it provides the opportunity to honor and please God - who is the God of order and cosmos, not chaos. Of course, training or no training, if I do either in pride, I am bound to fall.
Physical training has temporary value, but ultimately it is a tool to point us toward spiritual training. We are physical and spiritual creatures. Without spiritual training, we will sit on the couch and channel surf our way into disorder and destruction and death.
I'm thankful that God's Word - the Bible - says a great deal about training our spiritual lives. We are not invited into a life of cheap grace when we become worshipers of the one true God - no, it is a costly grace which asks us to train ourselves that we may keep ourselves from being "polluted by the world." Only because of God's first act of intentional grace am I able to respond in this way.
But, everywhere I look in my life I see a battle raging between my desire for immediate pleasure and the call to everlasting reward. Which one will I train myself for?
Come to think of it, I guess we are always training ourselves in something...
Unlike the "Christmas town" which Jack discovers where people are singing and throwing snowballs in the expectant dawn of Christmas, I am in Memphis, Tennessee. Certainly no snow here. But my eyes and ears are thirsty as they drink deeply from my new surroundings. My heart, too. I've been tired and restless of late and this move seems to be stirring me from a slumber. No, moving is not a quick fix. Our hearts are much more complicated than that. But I'm learning that sometimes you do need change. Not change for change sake, but change which turns on the hinges of something more solid and enduring. Something like a bigger vision of living life under the good and loving reign of Jesus Christ. His holy love transcends my undulating obedience and temperamental devotion. Thankfully, as I enter into this season of change, I can trust that he is bigger than the possible failures or fickleness which may be incipient in this change. I cling to the hope of his transforming grace which calls me out of the suffocating fears which threaten to numb and deaden me.
My prayer is that this "What's this?" perspective will not just be a temporary gust in my sails, but a threshold by which I cross over into a new way of living in the kingdom. May wonder and awe at my Father Creator grow within my soul like a spring ivy. May I think less about my changes and my perspective and more about what Jesus is doing around me.
Speaking of what he's doing around me, I look forward to sharing a brief story about a neighbor in my next post.
“Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them ! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that. Bible.com/app