Faith and Weights
Whether you're working out, lighting weights and building muscles, or hoping to strengthen your faith, both work in a very similar way.
They must be stretched – No pain, no gain.The common cliché is actually quite profound. The purpose of working out is to tear your muscles. When your muscles are torn, your body repairs them, only they get repaired stronger than before. That’s how muscles are built and how strength comes about. If you only work out for a short time with very little effort, you will barely, if ever, strengthen your muscles. If they aren’t being torn, they aren’t getting strong.
Our faith is very similar. No pain, no gain. It’s the pain that tears and stretches our faith, causing our faith to grow back even stronger than before. It’s the hard times that God allows us to experience which stretch our faith that strengthen our faith. Time is also of the essence. The more time you spend working out, the faster and stronger your muscles will be built. Same is true with our faith. The more time we spend nurturing our faith (reading the Bible, studying the Bible, and praying), the more our faith will grow. A long time of study and prayer may seem grueling and excruciating. But so does a long workout. In the end, you’ll be thankful for the result, whether it’s a bigger faith, or a bigger muscle.
Learn Proper FormIn bodybuilding, you must learn proper form. It’s essential. If you don’t, you could seriously hurt or injure yourself. Bad form can lead to back pains, back trouble or even back injury. Bad form could harm other parts of your body as well. Every exercise has it’s own proper form. There are also basic general rules for proper form overall. Same with the building of our faith. We must learn proper form. Study and understand the Bible in context. Prayer is communicating with the creator, not sending Santa our wish list. The Bible is a “all or none” book, not a salad bar where you can pick and choose pieces and skip over others. Improper form in faith building leads to shallow and ineffective faith which can harm us long-term.
Beginners...Stop Training like Advanced LiftersI stole this subtitle from a body building web site, but it applies to both very well. Start small, not big. If you’ve never worked out in your life, you can’t expect to start up with 200 curls of a 50 lb. weight followed by 400 pushups. It just won’t work. It’ll exhaust you and strain your muscles. It’ll do more than just tear your muscles.
Same with the growth of our faith. We can’t start with the heavyweights or even with the meat and potatoes. We start small, with the spiritual milk. Start our faith building time off small and slowly increase it. Rather than going from not reading your Bible at all to spending 2 hours per day reading the Bible, start with 10 minutes a day. After a few days or a week, increase this to 15 minutes. After a couple weeks, increase it to 20 minutes. Just keep increasing it as you can and as you feel the hunger for more. If you don’t feel the pain of a long workout, then increase your workout. But don’t start huge. Sidenote: The amount of time spent reading God's word is used here as a tangible example to illustrate this point. Simply spending 20 minutes reading God's word doesn't automatically make you twice as spiritual as someone who only spends 10 minutes reading God's word. The point is, start digging into God's word, but treat it like a workout. Don't overload yourself, which will just exhaust you and burn you out.
Same with all areas of faith. If you’ve never tithed before and you’re in a strong enough financial position to begin tithing 10% right away, that’s great. But if it’s too much of a strain, then start small. Start with 1%. After a month or a few months, increase that to 2%. Make your goal 10% or even 20%, but gradually work toward it in a way that stretches you a little, and challenges you, but isn’t too much of an unhealthy strain.
“As many as you can do plus two”Yes, I stole this line from Here Comes the Boom, but there’s something to this statement. How many pushups should I do? As many as I can plus two. Do as many pushups as you can, and when you feel like you can’t do anymore, push yourself to do two more. What if you can do 50 pushups during one workout, then push yourself to do 52. The next day, do 51 + 2. The next day, 52+2. Keep increasing, slowly but surely.
Same with our faith. Do as much as you can and then push yourself to do 2 more. If you can only bare 15 minutes of Bible study today, push yourself to do 17. If you can only spend 5 minutes in prayer before falling asleep, push yourself to do 7. If you can only show God’s love to 10 people this week, push yourself to show God’s love to 12. If you can only give $20, push yourself to give $22.
Don’t Miss a WorkoutYou can’t miss a workout. Once you miss one, it becomes easier to miss a second one. Then all that you’ve worked for is down the tube. You have to decrease your workout in order to make it doable if you miss your workout too many times. Let’s say you’re up to 100 curls. But if you miss two workouts, then you really have to push yourself for 95. What if you’re studying the Bible 30 minutes a day and then you skip three days? Then the next day, 30 minutes seems brutally long.
Besides, they say that in bodybuilding, if you don’t work out again within 24 to 48 hours, you’ll lose anything you gained from the previous work out. That means that missing one workout could cost you week of work. What if this is true in our faith as well? Could going 24 to 48 hours without stretching our faith cause us to lose most of what we’ve worked for the past few days? If each day we progress forward one step, could missing a day cause us to drift backwards two steps?
Deny Certain PleasuresIn body building and working out, there are certain pleasures you should be denying. Obviously certain types of foods you should stay away from. The same also applies in our faith. Yes, we are free in Christ. Yes, we are free to do anything. But not all things are beneficial to the building of our faith. Just like you are free to eat whatever you want to eat, not all things will be beneficial in helping you strengthen your muscles or shapen your body. In the same way, not all things are beneficial in helping us strengthen our faith. We continually need to deny ourselves of certain pleasures... not because we have to or are required to, but because its the only way we can strengthen our faith without sacrificing the time and energy we've already put into building our faith.
In summary, reading your Bible, spending time praying, giving back to God, and reaching out to others may feel like a chore, it may not be as fun as one may hope and it may sometimes be painful. But then again, so is working out. We may not enjoy the process, but we know the end result is good. And we want the end result. We want to build our muscles, so we suck up the pain and push forward. If we want to build our faith, we do the same: suck up the pain and move forward.
Although, if spending time with the creator of the universe and reaching out to others always feels like a chore, it may be time to examine your heart and your motives as well.