Written by R. M. Scheller.
Three years ago, I began taking fitness seriously. What started out as a wish to build just a little bit of strength has become a way of life. I’ve progressed further than I ever imagined.
Physical strength won’t last forever. All the muscle I’ve worked to build will eventually slip away. But through the process, I’ve learned lessons that will forever shape the person I’m becoming.
Working Out Taught Me Patience
Gaining strength was never easy for me. It took me several months to even do a single pull-up. My improvement with push-ups was painfully slow. Even now, I struggle to pick up some things that other people my size can lift easily. I’ve probably had more “bad days” than “good days.” Working out is hard for me.
When I have a “bad day,” it can be difficult to keep going. It’s frustrating to feel like I’m not making any progress. But when I look back, I can see the improvement. Patience pays off. Maybe I’m not where I want to be yet, but the point I’m at now is far past where I used to be.
It also applies to our growth as Christians. In Philippians 1:4-6, Paul writes, “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
It might seem overwhelming to build good habits and break bad ones when it comes to your life. Maybe you struggle to read the Bible daily, or you can’t stop worrying too much, and it seems like an insurmountable challenge. Some days, it might even seem like you’re backsliding.
But God began working on you. He won’t leave his work unfinished! It might take time, but keep moving on.
Working Out Taught Me Discipline
It started out nice and easy. I figured out how many repetitions I could do with each exercise without breaking a sweat. I did it the next day. And the next. I worked out six days a week and added one repetition each week. After all, you can always add just one more repetition, right?
Before long, I definitely was breaking a sweat. Many months later, it was a true struggle for me to keep at it. I dreaded the start of each exercise session, trembled with the effort it took to do push-ups, and collapsed off the pull-up bar.
It would have been so easy to just stop. That was a constant temptation. But I remembered all the people I know who complain that they wish they could get stronger but just “can’t”—even though they don’t bother putting in the effort. Oddly, that spurred me on. I saw that while they could do it, they chose not to prioritize it. I didn’t want to do the same, so I pushed onward.
At the end of each night, I read my Bible. There were nights I was exhausted after a long day and wanted to do nothing but sleep. “After all,” I would reason, “I can’t get much out of it if I’m tired!” But then my mind would flash to my workout struggles. If I can power through and do that six days a week, surely I can read the Bible each night, right?
After all, 1 Timothy 4:8 says, “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.” If I’m willing to work so hard at physical training (which is only of some value), I should put far more effort into reading the Bible and spending time praying (which has value for all things).
Working Out Taught Me Humility
Working out six days a week might have done wonders for my discipline, but it didn’t actually help my progress too much. Muscles need time to recover between workouts, and I wasn’t giving them time. It was a long time before I realized that even though working out six days a week seemed tough, it wasn’t helping.
Not to mention the repetitive-motion injuries. At my “peak,” I was doing over 1000 push-ups every week. It took me a surprisingly long time to realize that my pre-existing tendinitis simply wasn’t going to heal under those conditions. When my shoulder also started to hurt, I made the difficult decision to cut the push-ups entirely for a while. I know I’ll lose a lot of the strength I worked so incredibly hard to build up. When I imagine going back to the point where I struggled with twenty push-ups, it’s hard to accept.
When it comes down to it, it’s a matter of pride. I worked hard to build it up. But if something is holding us back, we need to cut it loose to move forward. Pridefully clinging onto what we built up can get in the way of making true progress.
It’s easy to justify sins. Gossip becomes “just warning them about him,” greed becomes “financial security,” and revenge becomes “protecting ourselves.” But Ephesians 4:22 says to “put off your old self” so that we can put on our new selves, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (v. 24).
If we put off our old selves, we’re putting off so many things we’ve worked for, like reputation and comfort. It takes humility to realize that to truly progress toward our goal of being more like God, we must release those bad habits we’ve built.
Working out has taught me patience for when change comes slowly, discipline to keep moving forward when it’s hard, and humility needed to cut out habits which are harmful.
I’m nowhere near my fitness goals yet, but it doesn’t feel like they’re incredibly out of reach. They might be years away, but I’ll keep working at it.
In the same way, I can see a glimmer of the light ahead. One day, we believers will be made perfect in Christ. Let’s move forward with patience, discipline, and humility!
Image taken from https://blog.fitbit.com/summer-workouts/. Accessed May 11th, 2020.