I’ve made no secret on this blog of my love of exercising. I swam for an hour this morning, and I plan on swimming at least an hour tomorrow. I’ve started using weight machines to help strengthen my legs and my arms. Exercise invigorates me, eases my pain, clears my head, burns my fat, lowers my blood pressure, and helps in countless other ways. But, I realized this morning that I have learned a great deal about life and my Christian faith from exercise. I wish to share five life lessons I’ve gleaned from exercise.
- “No pain, no gain.”
You know how true that is with exercise: the harder and better the workout, the more sore you’ll be the next day. Mature exercisers understand that the pain means you’re working hard and you’ll start seeing results.
The same principle works in life. Paul said that the terrible affliction he faced in Asia helped him rely more firmly on God (2 Cor 1:8-10). The testing of our faith produces steadfastness (Js 1:2-4). Trials refine our faith and allow praise and glory and honor to the Lord Jesus on the Last Day (1 Pet 1:6-7).
I like the surgery analogy: Surgery hurts, but we know it’s sometimes necessary for our health. Likewise, the trials of life can be very painful, but they are necessary for our spiritual growth.
- Discipline brings about great results.
My exercise and weight loss routine both require discipline: I must sacrifice my time, my energy, and food I like. Spiritually, I must discipline myself for a greater good: I must sacrifice my time, my energy, and sins I might enjoy.
- Progress is progress.
Sometimes I feel like I’m making slow progress: maybe I don’t swim as far or as fast as I’d like or maybe the scales don’t read like I wish they would. But, every day I keep exercising and watching my weight, there is some progress. Spiritually, my progress may seem slow, but every time I go to God in prayer, open His Word, and follow the example of Jesus I’m becoming – no matter how slowly – more and more of what Jesus intends me to be.
- Slow and steady wins the race.
Not only does progress – no matter how slowly – mean progress, but I shouldn’t expect progress over night: I didn’t gain weight and become out of shape overnight, and I’m not going to reverse it overnight. Sometimes I’m a tad embarrassed because I’m slow – I often swim next to a lady in her 80s, and she’s must faster than I am. Yet, I remind myself that I’m lapping everyone sitting on the couch. Likewise, in my spiritual walk, I’m not going to become who I need to be overnight; it will take some time. Scripture calls for me to grow (e.g., 1 Peter 2:2), and growth never occurs overnight.
- I’m not going to reach perfection.
My backstroke isn’t perfect, and I’m sure my weight will never be perfect; that’s okay – I’m getting better. I should, I believe aim for spiritual perfection – Jesus, whom I am to follow, was perfect. But, I know that perfection will never be attainable, for I sin and fall short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23). Yet, I must keep moving forward.
These are five lessons I’ve learned from exercise. What lessons have you learned?