True confession: I can ride a spinning bike for hours and not mind it all that much. Yet, I got on an outdoor bike a few weeks ago and thought I was going to die. Okay that’s a slight exaggeration. But only slight. It wasn’t pretty. We had a small climb as part of our journey and, let me tell you, I was hurting.
My husband is into CrossFit. It’s a really popular new way to work out – and very intense. He recently showed me one of the videos demonstrating the workout of the day (W.O.D.). I tried to do just one of the moves called a burpee. If you’ve never seen one, it’s like a jump up, squat down into a push-up position or plank and then jump back up kind of deal. It just about killed me. The workout called for 70 of them. (Yes, that is seven followed by a zero). Two or three maybe, but 70 was not going to happen for me.
I like to think of myself as in reasonably, okay shape. But doing these new exercises that are outside my normal routine is very, very difficult for me. Why? Because I’m COMFORTABLE doing a certain regiment of exercises. My body knows how to pedal the spinning bike and lift weights through a cardio pump type routine. But, my body strains in discomfort doing dozens of CrossFit goblet squats or pull ups .
Everyone knows that if you want to truly be in shape you have to cross train. But, most people I see that think they are cross training are, instead, really just alternating between a few activities that their bodies are used to and comfortable with (running and biking, etc…). The key to being truly fit is to keep finding new ways to challenge your muscles. If you want to continue to see results, you have to mix it up, discovering new ways to make your body work harder and different. When you are comfortable you aren’t getting fitter. You may be able to maintain a certain fitness level, for a season, but at some point, you are going to have to stretch, grow, make it harder or change it up, otherwise, you will slowly and subtly start going backwards. Your fitness level will atrophy — even though you may never slack off from your regular routine.
Here’s another hard truth: Most Christians I know are really comfortable and, accordingly, at risk of getting out of shape, spiritually.
A lot of the time, I am too. In fact, just today I was thinking about how blessed I am and how comfortable my life is. It’s challenging for a lot of pastor’s wives– they might not know anyone else in their same station or they may not have other Christian friends to rely on. Then there is me. Last week I met a friend, also a pastor’s wife, at the pool right in our neighborhood. Oh, yeah, and while I was there I waved “howdy” to a few other friends, also believers, that I know. I’m literally surrounded by Christians most of the time and it’s comfortable. But, is it too comfortable?
I think about all of the New Testament examples of men like Paul and Peter who heard the Gospel, believed, and then quickly found a group of other believers to cloister themselves with so that they wouldn’t have to deal with the junk of this world. They heard the truth and decided to share it only on Sundays so that they could spend the rest of their time just basking in the fact that they had the answer and not being troubled by people who might not.
Oh, wait, that’s not what happened at all, is it? They were constantly stretched through persecution, adversity, and struggle.
Then there is the persecuted church. My husband has a map from Voice of the Martyrs hanging on our office wall showing all the nations where the government prevents Christians from obtaining Bibles or meeting. Nations in red on the map are areas where Christians can be (and are) killed or beaten for claiming faith in Jesus Christ. If you want to see the map of restricted countries click here. It amazes me that the faithful in these nations risk their lives to meet with other believers while I stand and chat with friends about “church stuff” while standing in the middle of a public swimming pool. It amazes me that people will sacrifice it all to follow Jesus in these nations when, so often here, we get riled up if we are asked to sacrifice a few hours a month working in the nursery or sacrifice another “free” night or “family time” to meet with other believers in a small group.
Are we just too comfortable? I think so. And, just like with physical exercise, I don’t think it’s healthy.
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, I think he wants you to grow. And, you are going to have to challenge yourself if you want to mature. Just like you don’t know how strong your muscles are until you lift something, you can’t know how strong your faith is until it’s tested. We need to be spiritually Cross Fit.
You have to leave cozy behind if change is your goal. So many American Christians are afraid of it being hard. If relationships get uncomfortable, we get out. If church isn’t making us feel good anymore, we find another one. But, is that really what we are called to? Is that the example the Bible gives us? Is that what Jesus wants for us — to be nice and comfy?
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on water and came toward Jesus.
**This post was originally published in 2012**