“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Heb 12:11
I train in a sport called MMA (mixed martial arts). It’s a rough sport that is essentially a mixture of stand-up and ground fighting. I only casually do it for exercise and fitness, but even then it is extremely rough on my aging body.
There are some days that I don’t feel like training. I mean I reeeeeeally don’t feel like it. Training can be extremely hard, and if my mind isn’t right or my body isn’t feeling up to it, then it’s a struggle to get myself to go.
Sometimes we may feel like that in our daily walk with the Lord. Some days we’re just too tired and unmotivated, and it’s hard to do things like get into the Word and dedicate time to prayer.
But here are some similarities I’ve been able to draw between any physical training and our daily spiritual walk that help me commit to both:
- Sacrifice leads to growth. If I’m not willing to make sacrifices, then there’s no way I’ll learn or grow. Whether it’s stepping into the gym when I already feel beat up from the day, or waking up super early to read the Bible when I could use the extra sleep, I have to make sacrifices if I want to progress.
- It’s difficult, but worth it. There are many times when I don’t feel like dragging myself to the gym, or getting into the Word or sharing God’s love with someone… but after I do, I’m ALWAYS so glad and thankful that I did! The reward always ends up outweighing what I put in. It may be hard at first, but it’s worth it in the end.
- Turning weakness into strength. I get hurt a lot during training. When I get into God’s Word, it can also hurt because that’s often when I’m exposed to my own sin. My physical and technical shortcomings are revealed when I train, and my spiritual shortcomings are revealed when I read Scripture; but then I heal from my wounds and in the end it makes me stronger. I learn how to avoid getting hurt or making a mistake in that same way in the future, and not fall into the same trap over and over again. It doesn’t always happen immediately, but the more I do both in my physical and spiritual training, it eventually results in me learning how to manage, if not completely eliminate, those weaknesses.
- Seeing the big picture. It’s difficult to see how all of the strange, repetitive motions and drills in MMA training can teach you how to become a better fighter, competitor, or training partner. In the same way, sometimes it’s hard to see how your time spent in the Word, prayer, meditation, accountability, fellowship, ministry, sharing, etc. is tuning up your relationship with God, especially when you are basing things on the way you feel. I may not feel an immediate impact spiritually, or I may not instantly be able to turn that drill into a practical technique. But we have to see the bigger picture and realize that we discipline ourselves not for the sake of merely doing the activity, but rather to achieve the end goal. Prayer and spending time with God is all about desire & passion to seek God and know Him more; these are not “religious” activities we do (a.k.a. going through the motions) just because we’re “Christian”. Intimacy with God and the fullest possible fellowship and partnership with Him comes as you desire and seek to know Him, His plans, His will, and His ways– the big picture. And not because we feel like it, but because we truly believe He is God.
There are many more similarities I can draw between the two, but you probably get the idea- no pain, no gain. As Christians, we need to be willing to step into pain and discomfort, otherwise we won’t grow.
Yes, for some it’s hard to dedicate time to reading and praying every day; for some it’s hard to love the people that get on our nerves; for some it’s hard to avoid the sins we struggle with; for some it’s hard to tell others about Jesus.
But that’s when we need to A) determine whether we have the DESIRE to do it in the first place, B) if so, make the decision to do it, and C) lean on the power of the Holy Spirit to actually help us do it! We can’t do it without His Spirit, and we must make the determination to lean on God’s strength to carry us through. Our faith walk and life wasn’t meant to be easy, but God has sent us a Helper (His Spirit) to empower us as we do His will (Gal 5:16).
That last step is really one of the keys that I think many Christians today are missing. We try to do many of these things in our own strength, but our own strength will only take us so far. We must rely on God’s power, for His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9)!
And if you’re missing the first part about having the desire in the first place, then that is something you need to work out with God and pray for earnestly- that God would ignite that flame in your heart to seek after Him in all things (Jer 24:7, 1 Chr 29:18-19)
My challenge for you today is to reflect on your current relationship with God. Is it where you want it to be? Are you bearing the fruit of the Spirit as a follower of Christ should? Are you happy or satisfied with your current spiritual state?
If not, then do something about it! Start by genuinely seeking the Lord in prayer asking Him to help you and increase your faith– key word there being GENUINELY. Remember, you will never reap the benefits if you’re not willing to step into the gym in the first place.
No pain, no gain.