Anyone who has ever began an exercise program in order to get in shape or lose weight knows how overwhelming it is at first. To achieve one’s fitness goals requires a complete change of lifestyle and a new mindset. With each sore muscle and body ache, the ultimate goal must be kept in mind. If the effort is not made, then the goals will not be achieved. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a long-term process; there are no quick fixes. Our Christian walk is also a long-term process that we must work out on a daily basis. Church attendance is important, but if we spent only one hour with God one day a week and did nothing else, how can we expect to live a fruitful Christian life? Spending the least amount of time with God and expecting maximum results would be equivalent to going to the gym and doing one push-up for a workout.
In several places in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul used athletic competition as a metaphor for living our lives for Christ. Our ultimate prize is fulfilling God’s call for our lives and receiving our heavenly reward. Just as an athlete maintains a strict regimen of fitness and diet, so to we must maintain an active Christian lifestyle.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it a slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, NIV).
In order to get into “spiritual shape” we must quit eating the world’s junk food.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God- this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2, NIV).
We must deal with the sins that are holding us back from living for God
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2a, NIV).
Once we have dealt with our sins, we must not allow them to hold us back
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:12-14, NIV).
The prize far out exceeds the pain and struggle
“Blessed is the one who preservers under trail because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12, NIV).
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NIV).
Brothers and sisters, please remember that we are in a race and it will take time. Place your faith in the Lord and allow Him to mold you and complete you into the person you are called to be. Just as physical exercise can help with our overall body health, it is much more important to maintain our spiritual health during these difficult times.