After two weeks in Dallas and New Mexico, then another five days at the Mountainside Novelist Retreat, I continued to shove physical exercise to the back burner to play catch up on my work, home, and writing projects. This morning I went to a spin class for the first time in a month. I wish I could tell you I jumped out of bed excited to return to the gym and drove there with a smile on my face. Not so.
The class started at 8:30 a.m., and I convinced myself to go at 8:25. I threw on my workout clothes and hopped in my van only to get stuck in a line of traffic. After inching my way to the Y entrance, I quickly parked, ran inside, and began pedaling at 8:36.
Why am I telling you this? Because God taught me spiritual lessons through the class, and I’d like to share them with you. So, bear with me as we walk through these truths together.
When the spin class started, it was a pleasant ride. We cruised on a flat road and became comfortable on the bike with no gear on the flywheel. I could move at that easy level for hours. But a few minutes into the class, the instructor said, “Add tension and pick up your pace.” The ride became a little more difficult, but not impossible.
Then I heard, “Sprint!” I pedaled as fast as possible, my thighs burned, and my breathing was labored. Thankfully, sprints are short and, after about thirty seconds, she let us slow down and catch our breath. But we knew what was coming after the sprints … the high tension hill climb.
Reaching down, I turned the red knob until my legs could hardly move in a fluid motion. Staying in the seat at that level didn’t last long. I had to stand to make it up the massive hill. Controlled breathing was essential or my lungs would rebel. I wanted to quit. To jump off the bike and say, “I’m done with this. It’s too hard.”
But I looked around at others pushing themselves up that hill, and I was motivated to keep on. To endure and build strength. When I reached the peak, I coasted downhill and my breath leveled out. Then we did it again. And again.
Guess what? I survived the class. It wasn’t comfortable. It hurt. And even though I finished, it wasn’t pretty.
I came out of it haggard, but stronger. Better. And each time I push myself, I’ll be even stronger.
Now, here are the lessons God shouted at me this morning as I pedaled like a maniac.
- When we first accept Christ, we’re on a spiritual high. We’re learning about God and how He works. Prayers are answered miraculously and the tension is light. We believe the joy surging through us will never end and we can cruise happily with Jesus for years.
- After a while, the tension amps up a bit. We dig in and spend more time with God in prayer and His Word, seeking help in the hectic pace we find ourselves in. The struggle is taxing, but not hopeless.
- Next comes the sprint. Before we realize it, we’re racing at breakneck speed to gain all available information about God and His will. We serve in every ministry opportunity possible, take meals to people, attend a church event every night of the week, and say yes to every request. We’re able to manage this in spurts but before long, burn out hits, and we have to slow down and catch our breath.
- Just when we start to breathe again, a mountain is thrown in front of us. A diagnosis, a prodigal child, loss of a job, financial crisis, death of a loved one. You get the picture. We’re tempted to believe God isn’t who He claims to be. Sometimes we want to quit. To abandon the steep incline and say, “I’m done with this. It’s too hard.”
- Discouragement and fatigue sets in. When we’re ready to hop off the spiritual spin bike and give up, we need to look at the believers around us who are running the race well. Their tenacity and faith can inspire and spur us on to the finish line. If we don’t concede, in time we climb over that peak, and the peace of God blows over us as we coast down the other side, grateful to have endured.
- We’re challenged with another mountain. But we’re stronger this time. We arrive at the top easier and can encourage others to continue on.
- We won’t come off the mountain looking pretty. We’ve been through a battle. We have wounds and scars. Pretending it’s easy and replying, “I’m fine,” when asked how we’re doing needs to stop. Take off the mask and be vulnerable. Share the real you so people can learn and grow from your struggles.
This crazy life is a marathon and requires endurance. It demands training, discipline, and accountability. Sacrifice and commitment. Spiritual muscle will not develop on its own. We must apply ourselves to spiritual exercise every day to prepare for the inevitable mountains.
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
Don’t give up. With God’s help, and encouragement from friends, you’ve got this.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25
Join the conversation. Do you spend time on physical exercise? What about spiritual exercise? Which season of life are you in—on a spiritual high, a bit of tension, sprinting, climbing a mountain, ready to quit, or coasting? Can you offer words of encouragement for others who are tempted to bail on their walk with God? Post your experience in the comments so we can support each other.