Last night I shared with my congregation the following analogy:
Let’s just suppose I told people I was a member of Riverside Sports Gym. And let’s just suppose I said to them, “Look, I’m an athlete!” What do you think people would think? All they would have to do is look at me (all 215 pounds) and conclude that something about my statement wasn’t very honest. People could rightfully judge my statement by what they see.
An athlete is one whom, by definition, is athletic. With a gut like mine, how could that be possible? If asked to prove my athlete claim, shouldn’t I at least be able to jog a mile or two, do 20 or 30 sit ups, or something like that? Or, is it possible my profession of athleticism was only wishful thinking, if not a bold-face lie?
On the other hand, is is possible that calling myself an athlete would be accepted as a valid profession…if it was sincere…and if I had a totally different understanding of what a true athlete is.
My point was that a lot of people may have joined a church and have a membership card to prove it, but that doesn’t make them any more a Christian than joining a gym makes them an athlete.
Beside joining the gym and signing up for the team, what determines the difference between a true athlete and one who just claims to be? Discipline.
“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, WORK OUT your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:12-13
A genuine follower of Jesus Christ should be one who lives in such a way that others SEE their salvation. To “work out” one’s salvation is to not keep it hidden on the inside, but bring it to the surface, evident to all. It’s like the sweat of an athlete; it comes to the surface when we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.
An athlete will take advantage of his gym membership, use the weights, run on the tread mill, and all that stuff. He will discipline himself to go at least 3 times a week (if not more) and spend a certain amount of time on some things, more time on areas in which he’s deficient. On top of that, a real athlete will exercize outside the gym, too.
A Christian should be like an athlete (as the Apostle Paul has hinted – see 1 Cor. 9:24-27), acting with discipline, staying in shape, growing stronger, shedding excesses, turning into what would appear to be the outward evidence of an inward determination.
Prayer, church attendance, worship, meditating on God’s Word, thanksgiving, forgiveness, compassion, contentment, kindness, encouragement, love: these are the spiritual equivalents of push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, jogging, cardio, and weight lifting. It’s what “athletes” do.
But you don’t have the will power? Strange that you should say that. Was is not Philippians 2:13 that said it is God who works in us both to WILL and to DO His good pleasure?
Honestly, many of us need to make sure of our “gym” membership. More than that, we need to make sure our claim to being on the athletic team is legitimate. Because, if we are nothing but overweight, out-of-shape wannabe’s with no desire to do better, just wasting away in our own undisciplined, broken-down bodies, what does that say about the Life that is in us?
In 2016 I want to work out more (I NEED to). This temple of the Holy Spirit needs a total renovation! But even more, I also want to “work out” my spiritual life. I want there to be more evidence that I take the race before me seriously, like I’m actually out to win it, not just run it.
My thanks to all of you who’ve read my blog this year (2015). Now, as we head into a new one, let’s challenge each other to not only run the race of faith, but run as those who want to win (1 Cor. 9:24). Let’s not lie about our spiritual fitness; let’s be athletes worthy of victory!
Happy New Year!