Working with a trainer has been instrumental in my weight loss journey. No, that’s not quite right. It’s a health strategy. You see, along the way, I realized the scale was only ONE facet of my story. It was exciting to see the scale change numbers…on most days…or weeks. There were stretches in which the numbers on the scale DID NOT MOVE.
I was tempted to give up, but having (and paying for) a personal trainer kept me going to the gym. My trainer kept the workouts varied and geared to my current level of fitness. In addition to core workouts and conditioning exercises, he introduced me to powerlifting – but that is another story for later.
Sometimes, the scale wasn’t moving, but other numbers were. Body measurements (however dreaded they seemed) proved that inches were coming off, even if the report on the scale seemed otherwise. My arms, thighs, and even my abdomen were getting slimmer. Less “obvious” were my lab values (cholesterol, etc.), BMI, and fat percentage, all of which were welcomed by my Nurse Practitioner.
No matter the workout, there were reps that were requested…sometimes required. At times, I was asked to repeat the movement 8 times. Those were rare. It was more often 10 or 12 times. My trainer kept track and offered words of encouragement.
“Just 2 more” was a phrase I heard over and over again. Sometimes, I counted along in my head and realized that, occasionally, he wasn’t keeping track of how many I had already done. Even if I knew the answer, I would ask “How many more?” and hear “2 more” so many times, I began to say it with him.
He really does know how to count – I checked. But in the process of multitasking, he could lose track of where we were in the process. Rather, he was busy encouraging me and watching to make sure I was lifting correctly so I wouldn’t injure myself.
“Just 2 more” was a default answer that he used when he lost count and/or the individual looked like he/she was really struggling with the current exercise. Either way, 2 more is an attainable goal and meant that the task was about to end…always encouraging to hear.
Taking care of our physical bodies through healthy eating and exercise is important, but not the only area that gets or need training. Paul contrasted the process of physical training with godliness. “Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Tim 4:7–8. ESV)
Paul alludes to the sort of physical training undertaken especially by athletes and others in the Greek gymnasia, where men stripped naked for exercises (v. 7). This image would have been familiar to his Greek readers, because the gymnasium was the center of civic life in Hellenized towns. The image of physical training was extremely common in the illustrations of Greco-Roman moralists and philosophers. Like them, Paul speaks of moral, intellectual and spiritual discipline rather than physical exercise, although he is not opposed to the latter. (Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 1 Ti 4:6–11.)
Let me start with how glad I am that my gym requires clothing!
Now, on to more important facets of what Paul was referencing. Christians are called to holy living and godliness, and as noted, it involves work! Much like physical training, it doesn’t happen overnight.
After our salvation, our thinking, speaking and actions come under the watchful eyes of our spiritual personal trainer – the Holy Spirit of God. And, like all trainers, there are tools of the trade that are utilized.
- Gym equipment comes with guidelines on how to use it properly and offers a variety of exercises to get the full benefit. So does our spiritual training. The guidelines are found in scripture. “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tin 3:14–17. ESV) Another version puts it this way: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16–17. NLT)
- Having and knowing how to use the equipment is only the start. The work comes in actually using it…repeatedly. It’s difficult to go to the gym on a regular basis and it’s also hard work to train for righteousness. In my experience, God uses people and circumstances to train us in godliness. For example, consider the fruit of the Spirit – a useful list of characteristics that stand in stark contrast to our old ways of thinking and acting. “I say be guided by the Spirit and you won’t carry out your selfish desires. A person’s selfish desires are set against the Spirit, and the Spirit is set against one’s selfish desires. They are opposed to each other, so you shouldn’t do whatever you want to do. But if you are being led by the Spirit, you aren’t under the Law. The actions that are produced by selfish motives are obvious, since they include sexual immorality, moral corruption, doing whatever feels good, idolatry, drug use and casting spells, hate, fighting, obsession, losing your temper, competitive opposition, conflict, selfishness, group rivalry, jealousy, drunkenness, partying, and other things like that. I warn you as I have already warned you, that those who do these kinds of things won’t inherit God’s kingdom. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the self with its passions and its desires. If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit.” (Gal 5:16–25. CEV) Here’s the work – we won’t know we have patience unless we are put in a position where patience is needed…then we see that the “training” is paying off. The same goes for love – God puts us around people that are difficult to love. Circumstances and people train and test our ability to be kind, experience joy or peace, and practice self-control
The good news, like my personal trainer at the gym, the Holy Spirit encourages us and stretches us to do “just 2 more” as we work towards Christ-like living…over time.