One of the ways the Fall and the brokenness caused by sin reveals itself in our lives is the tendency to want things that actually do us no good, or at least only temporary “good.” Think of your favorite food: most of us do not think of salads or fresh vegetables as tasty with nearly as much relish (pardon the pun) of ice cream, chocolate, or fried foods. We would generally rather sit on the couch than get up and exercise. We would rather do a “quickie” quiet time than devote ourselves to intentional, deep study of Scripture. And, we would certainly rather chill with fellow believers than invest in relationships with the lost.
What if we saw things differently? What if we approached life from a truly biblical worldview, in which we gave ourselves to value the things of God and the things that brought glory to God? Certainly we want that. But the flesh is strong, and I know my own carnality craves comfort over sacrifice, pleasure over pain, and security over risk. I love serving Jesus when it is easy, when the wind is at my back and circumstances bring me joy. But what if I valued things that did not naturally please my flesh?
After all, Jesus said to rejoice and be exceedingly glad when we face persecution and derision for the Name (see Matthew 5). That does not come as easily as getting fat comes with middle age. It requires a constant change of mindset.
Many people know (and have heard it ad nauseum, for which I almost apologize) about my commitment over the last year and a half to exercise. I found a plan (Power90 and for some of the time P90X), I found conviction (I hit 50 and got sick and tired of being sick and tired), and I found a perspective (I quit using an artificial hip and middle age as an excuse). Over 30 pounds less and a lot better shape later, I have found something else.
I am learning to indulge in discipline. There is one other thing that helped to bring this about: I started exercising regularly with students. I LOVE students. I love mentoring, teaching, hanging out with students, more than anything on earth other than my family (and my son is also my student!). So this fall, MWF mornings, I have met with around 20 guys and gals to sweat, work, and push one another.
I am going to do this the rest of my life. I am the SEBTS version of Tony Horton, the head of the Alvin Reid Health Spa. Okay, maybe not all that. But this week I awoke to 14 degrees and did not care. I could not wait to get to the gym at 7 AM. I knew students would be there. And they were. So I cut on the Lecrae Rehab CD and we got to work.
I yell some times. But I am sweet. Mostly. We push. We sweat. I sweat a lot because I am older and have to work harder. But I do not simply tolerate this. I LOVE it.
Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. We are to glorify God with our bodies (see I Corinthians 6:20; Romans 12:1). Ministers today are such a radically pathetic model of this. We value the buffet line more than the finish line. We kid about it and make excuses while we fail to realize the example we set is often a horrible one.
George Whitefield (among others) said he would rather burn out that rust out. I do not want to do either. And I certainly do not want to see overpaid athletes with the motivation of a consumer, or undertalented rock stars with their lust for the stage and the roar of the crowd, fulfill their task with greater zeal than I do when I serve the most high God and have all the riches of heaven ahead of me. Maybe that is why some in ministry are also so caught up in consumerism and opportunism, because we value possession and position far more than we value discipline…and disicpleship. The two words do seem eerily similar do they not?
Can one really be a disciple without discipline? Ask yourself how much you value discipline. Then ask yourself how much you value Jesus. No, we do not earn salvation or God’s favor. But Paul did tell Timothy to discipline himself for the purpose of godliness. What greater way can I show my gratitude to my Savior than to serve Him with all the drive of my life?
Take the dive. Indulge. Indulge with ferocity, in discipline. Let me know how it goes.