I went to the YMCA today to work off some pounds (except the pounds strangely don't seem to work off...) and while exercising there, I thought of many parallels between physical exercise and the exercise of our faith, keeping in mind all the various ways that we live it out. It made my exercising easier as I thought of something other than one motion after another, repetitive and somewhat painful.
I have tried most of the machines in the one exercise room, and have come up with my favorites. I go through the 9 muscle-toning machines in the children's area (they fit me well for height, and they're okay for adults to use if the children aren't kept waiting for them). I don't know how any child would max out on those machines. I started out pretty strong (I usually add about 30 pounds or more to whatever adjustment was there before), and am getting stronger, but I have a little way to go on most of them. Only on one can I go for the full 100 pounds--it's the one for the lower back, and for some reason that part of me must be proportionately stronger than the rest. For a while, after I was done with those machines, I would go to the elliptical machine, or the treadmill, and work off maybe 100 or 150 calories. Lately, I go to the reticulating bike, where I can sit back and read my Bible. I can read about 15 chapters while I work, and work off about 200 or more calories at a sitting while I'm not dwelling on the effort involved. I can't read so well on any other machine there. (The funny thing is, my unbelieving brother Don is the one who suggested that I work on that bike for the purpose of reading. Ha! I don't think he would have for the sake of the Bible, but never mind that. He can be a good influence in spite of himself.)
The funny thing is that while I try to get more fit, and I know I'm exercising more than I have since I was in school, still if I try walking in our neighborhood, I realize that the exercise at the Y does not yet provide me with greater stamina for walking. And I work on so many machines that I would think that I would be working pretty much all my muscles...yet I have noticed a few more machines, upon closer observation, that I know would help me find some new ones.
If I use one machine and go back to another I haven't used for a while, that previous one is harder again to use, as if I'd never tried it (my body seems to have an appalling lack of appreciation for the work I have done). When I'm not using a machine, I don't realize how much my muscles need the benefit that comes from it. That kind of thing is what got me comparing it to the Christian life.
Lately in my reading, I've been reading certain books of the Bible repeatedly for greater knowledge of them and the emphasis that comes through it; I occasionally branching out to others that I haven't read in a while. I know those other books, but being away from them, I get forgetful. It's good to have a reminder; it's like flexing muscles that otherwise stay still. Reading a book repeatedly to the exclusion of others is like using the reticulating bike continually and leaving the other machines alone--I get really fit in one regard but flabby in others. I need the balance of not just reading the Gospel of Mark, but also Genesis here, Acts there, Revelation sometimes too...I need the full counsel of the Scriptures to live my life in a balanced fashion. The books of Paul's life are an inspiration to live fully for Christ; the Gospels are a reminder of Him who I live for, belong to, look forward to meeting...but then Noah and Abraham and Moses inspire me with their persistence, their faith even before the knowledge of our Savior on the cross and His resurrection. The various letters to the churches remind me of the various ways I need to sharpen my obedience, my attitude, my witness, my walk in Christ. To increase my prayerfulness, my Bible reading, how I exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. To understand and remember the reason for our suffering, for our faithfulness, for fellowship, for giving...to stay strong all around so I don't have extremely weak and flabby areas, so I don't fall for lies and stumbling blocks and get discouraged. Not all of the benefit of reading is known to me in this life, I'm sure; just like all the benefit of exercising doesn't show on the scale, in the fit of my clothes, or on a walk nearby. The Bible is a God-given, ideal and thorough fitness plan, always waiting, ready for me to apply. Ready for me to get my spiritual muscles pumping!
1 Timothy 4:8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.