I hate working out. Never a friend; it sits and stares at me while I try to build of the drive and the energy to wear myself out. People kept telling me it would get easier, I’d get addicted and start liking yet. That has yet to happen. I have become more disciplined, however, it is still discipline that drives my workout routine. Though I have held to a fairly regular exercise routine since 2006 (24 Hour Fitness in Omaha did serve me well for a while), it was January of 2013 that saw me take the next step in my workouts: cycling…in Florida…during the hottest part of the day.
Physical Training and the Swim-Cycle
Swim-cycling—I call it that due to the Florida humidity—has without question helped me take a significant jump in my aggressiveness of workouts and, to be honest, it has made a difference physically. Though, due to the arrival of the kids (whom I blame completely for my lack of time and energy), I have seen a slight drop in days per week I can work out, I am still pushing hard and seeing gains and physical improvement in myself. While it does not get easier every day (it’s a mix of good days and bad days), I am getting stronger and healthier. This is why, as much as I hate it, physical training is vital to my life.
I could site articles and stats that show the value of aggressive exercise and how it can add years to a person’s life, but I won’t do that (except for this). There is no researched of logical argument that can negate the positive physical benefits of vigorous exercise. That’s not the point of this post. The point is the value of training – whether it be physical training, mental training, spiritual training or so on.
Why We Train Physically and Spiritually
We currently have a two-year-old foster child who has been living in our home long term. “A” (to protect her identity) is, for the most part, a very well behaved little girl who really wants to please Nita and I, make her little foster sister laugh and is conscious enough to automatically pick up after herself and treat the animals gently. For those reasons and many more, she has been an absolutely wonderful child to have in our home. She certainly does have her issues and can be very stubborn (let’s not forget that she’s two), and though she does have our trust in certain small things, she does not have a long leash.
For example, early on we had to help her wash her hands after using the restroom. She needed us to lift her up to the sink and help with the faucet and soap. A few weeks ago, I caught her coming out of the bathroom without us helping her wash up. Surprised that she didn’t call for help, I figured she forgot and got up to remind her of what she needs to do. Yet, when I grabbed her hand, I noticed it was damp. Curious, I asked her if she washed her hands, to which she said “Yes”. Though hopeful, the story didn’t add up and I did not believe her. After walking her back to the bathroom, I asked her to show me how she washed her own hands. To my astonishment, she climbed right up the vanity, turned on the faucet, grabbed the soap and washed her hands totally on her own. She had just earned a little bit of trust. Because I knew I could trust her in that, I was open to allowing her an appropriate level of freedom in that area, plus opportunities to increase that trust level even more.
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.
Matthew 25:14-28, NIV
Training to Trust and Obey
Jesus used this very example to describe the nature of trust. It starts small and then is given opportunities to grow as the student learns to obey and be faithful. “A” is nowhere near ready to handle all of the hygienic responsibilities adults take care of while half-asleep, because it’s too early in the morning and the coffee isn’t done percolating yet. Her version of brushing her teeth is a huge, toothy grin while holding the toothbrush up her nose. She’s not there yet. So, while she can handle the hand washing duties on her own, she still has a lot of progress to go.
This, obviously, is normal and an expected part of growing up. My point exactly. She’s only been alive a little over two years, it would be crazy to expect her to playing Mozart flawlessly, let alone actually brushing the food off of her teeth. The lesson here, the one I am learning how much I still have to learn is one of spiritual obedience.
“A” does not understand why she needs to wash her hands. The complexities of germs and bacteria are still years away in her cognitive development. What she does understand is that her job, as our foster daughter, is to obey. We are the authorities in her life and the only thing she needs to worry about is obeying Mummy and Daddy. This is a perfect analogy of our growth and sanctification in Christ. This side of heaven we will never know what the plan is; Proverbs 3 makes it clear that God is the one who lights our steps and makes our paths straight. Yet that lighting generally only shows us the next step. And that’s the key.
The Goal of Spiritual Training
We are not responsible for the plan. We are not responsible for our lives. We are purely responsible to stand. “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!” This is the first verse in Philippians 4, directly after Paul wrote about following the example of Jesus and living life as a long distance journey. We cannot control where the path leads, nor can we control what obstacles fly in our way. All we can control, and all we are ultimately asked to do is to obey. Obey Christ and stand. Stand firm in our faith, following where the lighted path leads and trust that He has everything under control. That is faith and obedience. That is our calling, our job description as Christians.
So, while I must admit that I have not been very obedient to God this week, (and I only fit in two workouts) I get up each morning, get back on the bike, open back up the prayer lines and keep training. Some days are better than others, but as I look back through my life, my days are far better than they were years ago. I am a different person than I was and am continually being made new as I grow closer to God through trust and obedience. Maybe in a few years I’ll be trusted to brush my teeth on my own as well!