The Gospel and Fitness

"Do you even lift?"

“Do you even lift?”

I’ve been in an Adult Basketball League the last few months and more than ever before I have been confronted with the reality that…wait for it…

I.AM.OUT.OF.SHAPE.

I’ve known it for a while and have thought about doing something about it; seriously.  Well, semi-seriously.  It’s been tough because I know the journey ahead will be long and hard and I’m not looking forward to it; hence my hesitation.  This is my story and my confession.

During the season, I found myself frustrated with myself (that sounds weird) and my level of play more often than not and I definitely attribute it to my poor conditioning.  Something has to give; now.  I need to either retire from the game of basketball or get my act together and get in shape.  I choose the latter; seriously.

So starting some day, I will start using my gym membership instead of donating money every month to the 24 Hour Fitness.  I will put on my big boy shorts, lace up my kicks and get back in shape.  BUT…I won’t let it consume me; at least I pray I don’t…

I’ve noticed over the past few years that there has been a dangerous trend going on with people I know and don’t know and that is the preoccupation and dare I say idolization of FITNESS.  Of course, with the ever-increasing changes and expansion of social media, the problem has been magnified, but it’s still a problem.  I don’t think I can go a day without seeing post after post, picture after picture or advertisement after advertisement about people working out, talking about working out, posting pictures from previous workouts or videos of actual real-time workouts.  Let’s not forget about the plethora of Facebook ads, Groupons, infomercials, DVDs and the like about the subject.  Everywhere I turn I am being flooded with people consumed with working out, consumed with trying to get me to buy a product to go with working out, so much so that it scares me a little to jump back in the game.

Most people might think that I am being dramatic and that I am not serious about my health and/or dedicated to it.  Now don’t get me wrong, as a person who has had high cholesterol the majority of his life, I know the dangers of an unhealthy lifestyle.  I get it.  What I don’t get is the preoccupation with it where it begins to consume the lives of people so much, that it becomes the goal of life:

  • To be healthy and in shape,
  • To feel good and look good,
  • To just lose “a few” more pounds and then satisfaction will kick in,
  • To fit some model or mold that society has crafted as the ideal body type and/or ideal lifestyle.

For a lot of people I know and don’t know, this is their reality.  They are consumed with fitness.  Fitness has become an idol.  Relationships are becoming and/or have become strained because all they want to do is run or hit the weights or talk about running and hitting the weights.   Precious moments with family, friends or co-workers are being squandered because people are choosing to forgo meals and isolate themselves for the sake of “being healthy”.  For many, they have bought into the lie that if you get in shape, you will be satisfied because of the benefits.  For many, they have bought into the lie that being preoccupied with fitness and hanging around others who are like-minded fosters authentic community.  However, the whole idea of fitness is for the most part a self-centered conquest.   For many, this worldly preoccupation with the self and self-preservation has put them in a dangerous position where they have become their own idols consumed with glory for themselves.  Consumed with the idea of being adored by others for their pulchritudinous splendor.  They have become and/or are lovers of self.

What’s crazy is that many people don’t even realize it.  That’s because it happens so subtly.  What starts out as a healthy venture to perhaps enhance one’s quality of life, quickly (if not tempered) becomes the reason for life and the goal of life.  I have seen this happen especially in the Christian community, but this isn’t anything new.   From the beginning of time, humans have taken good things and have made them “god things”.  From the beginning of time, humans have believed the lie that there are things in this world (physical and metaphysical) that can bring ultimate satisfaction.

Friends, let’s not fool ourselves. NOTHING in this world can provide ultimate satisfaction save Jesus Christ! He alone can bring satisfaction to our longing hearts.  He alone can provide a love for us and affection towards us that would make us choose His love over life itself (see Psalm 63:3).  Why?  Because His love for us, God’s love for us, is not based on anything that we do or become.  The love the Father has for us which He demonstrated through the Son is not based on any merit of our own; but on His sovereign choice.  Hallelujah!

Yes, getting in shape and leading a healthy lifestyle can enhance our quality of life, but it can never replace or even measure up to the life that  Jesus came to give us (John 10:10) or the life we have to look forward to (John 17:2).   The world may promise happiness through fitness, but it won’t last.  The world may offer you it’s caricature of what is “sexy” and/or “desirable”, but it will change.

IT.ALWAYS.DOES.

The world may have it’s perks, pleasures and promises, but guaranteed, they will at some point fail.  What will not fail is God’s love for us (Jeremiah 31:3).  What will not fail is God’s Word to us (1 Peter 1:24,25).  What will not fail is the Gospel received by us (1 John 2:24).  Who will not fail is God’s Son with us (Hebrews 13:8).

So let us take these words to heart lest we fall in love with the world and consequently, ourselves:

15 Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. 16 For everything that belongs to the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

What is God’s will for us in this life? It’s simple; love God and love people.  May we never allow the pursuit of self-satisfaction and self-gratification hinder us from obeying His commands.  May we never feed into and buy into promises that cannot be kept.  May we look to and rely on the promises of the One in whose mouth was found no deceit; Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53:9).

25 And this is the promise that He Himself made to us: eternal life. (1 John 2:25)

Next time you hit the gym or the trail, take the Gospel with you and remember:

“Time is filled with swift transition,
Naught of earth unmoved can stand,
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.” – Jennie Wilson

Getting back in the game,

Terry

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