Getting and staying in shape isn’t easy. Last year I went to a normal physical at the Dr. and was told I was going to face a couple of potential health issues if I didn’t get in better shape. I was motivated and started out fast: running, biking, swimming, gym – something almost every day. By the end of the year I had completed three sprint triathlons, a half-marathon, and lost 40 pounds. I was motivated by fear of poor health, motivated by the time I spent with my wife and friends exercising, motivated by the feeling of being in better shape. But as quickly as it started, it faded, the business of life and a dozen other things got in the way and this year I gained back 20 pounds. I struggled to find the motivation to consistently get back on my bike, or run. I got down and frustrated and was content with the status quo for a while. Of course my wife reminded me that physical health sometimes goes like that, it ebbs and flows, there are times when we are more interested and times when we are not.
This analogy of course applies to our Spiritual lives as well. The Old Testament Hebrews believed that it was all connected: physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental health were not separate pieces but rather connected in our personal harmony. There are times when I am reading Scripture and honestly blown away and other times when I am just going through the motions. There are times when I worship that I feel like I am a part of something bigger and there are times when I don’t connect emotionally. In those times, should I only do the things I want to do or the things that make me feel better?
So now I am (hopefully) getting back in shape; I recently joined a “fitness boot camp.” I didn’t want to go at first but my wife encouraged me to try it. I have only been a few times, but have loved working out in this format so far. What is interesting is that there is really nothing physically significant about it: there are no weight machines, no exercise machines, and no abundance of mirrors on the walls. I show up for a specific start time and go through a circuit workout with several other individuals at the same time. There is a leader who tells us what exercises to do and then leaves us to work out with each other. As we work out we give each other a little bit of encouraging small talk (when I can catch my breath enough to talk). The bottom line is, there is very little specialized equipment and most of the workout could be done at home with a video series. And yet, I have already had better workouts here than with any workout video. Why is a workout in this format so effective? It is the motivation. Having a set place away from home, knowing I will be working out, sweating next to others with the same goals. It is all very motivating, it gets me outside of myself, outside of my own concerns, and worries. If I can just take that first step towards working out and embrace it, it is not long before i find myself in a better place than I was before. And sometimes how similar is that to our spiritual lives? There are times when I don’t want to go to my Life Group but still go, and without fail those are the times I am most touched by the words or experiences of others. There are times I am distracted by something on Sunday and yet when I just give up on my own concerns and focus on God, He hits me most deeply.
In today’s culture, the temptation is to be driven by what we “want.” We say yes or no to activities based on whether or not we want to. We train our kids for the same thing by constantly asking them “what do you want to do?” If we fail at a task, we blame it on “not wanting it enough.” Do we ever stop to think about how this overflows into our spiritual lives? Are we so attuned to what we want in a physical sense that it is what motivates us spiritually? Maybe we aren’t alone. In Mark 14:32-36 Jesus struggled with what he wanted as well:
32-34 They came to an area called Gethsemane. Jesus told his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with him. He plunged into a sinkhole of dreadful agony. He told them, “I feel bad enough right now to die. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”
35-36 Going a little ahead, he fell to the ground and prayed for a way out: “Papa, Father, you can—can’t you?—get me out of this. Take this cup away from me. But please, not what I want—what do you want?”
I love that Jesus bases His decisions and actions on His relationship with the Father. He voices what He wants, but ultimately follows God’s will. Not on His own wants.
In our mission statement at Crosswalk, we say we are “a community passionately demonstrating the love of Jesus by…” and one of the points is “choosing sacrifice…” This does not mean that we sacrifice our time or money, but rather sacrifice our own wants and desires for God’s. What is motivating you?