No Pain, No Gain: Part I

Two hours later and my legs still feel like Jello molds.  I’m wobbling around my house as if I couldn’t pass a sheriff’s breath test–not sore, just unstable.

I’m not a gym exerciser.  The idea of working out publicly terrifies me.  All those people running on their treadmills, biking effortlessly or using mystifying exercise equipment with bars and pulleys would get a quick self-esteem boost from my presence, I’m sure.

I, on the other hand, would be reminded that I don’t know what in the world I’m doing when it comes to fitness.

But we all want to be healthy, right?

And we all want to look as if we’re pros at this whole exercise thing, right?

So, I’m more of an exercise video kind of girl from the secluded privacy of my living room.  Either that, or I’d rather just eat less and skip the exercising all together (does that really work?)

Today, I popped in a video run by a perfectly toned ballet instructor, who tells me reassuringly that she danced for years with the Virginia Ballet and now runs her studio in California.

I want to look how she looks.

So, in moments, she had me performing plies and demi-plies and standing in first position and I pointed my toes and straightened my posture to match her.

For five minutes it was easy.  Ten minutes later, I considered limiting all future exercise attempts to nothing more coordinated or complicated than walking.  After all, I’ve been walking quite well for a few decades, so I am pretty sure I could master the basic moves.

All in all, I took from my morning exercise experience these things:

  • I do not look like the sculpted toothpick of a ballerina on the television screen nor can I move like her.
  • I may not be able to walk correctly for a week.
  • I may not have mastered the art of exercise still, but I took away a few spiritual lessons I could share with you instead.

Lesson One: It Wasn’t Always Easy for Them

This super-ballerina with the perfect shape could lift her leg sideways so that it was perpendicular with the rest her body.  She contorted herself without any evidence of pain or effort into a perfect letter T.  If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I’d have sworn it was impossible for anyone not in the circus.

She made it look easy.

It wasn’t.

Sometimes we read Scripture and feel the frustration when we don’t look like the spiritual giants we find on the pages.  We’re not David or Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist or Paul.

We stumble.  We mess it up.  We make bad choices at times and struggle with sin always.

This morning, I read, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). For a brief moment, I thought, “Sure, easy for him to say.”

But of course it wasn’t easy for James, the half-brother of Jesus, to curb his tongue and control his anger.

Years earlier, before Jesus’ public ministry had truly launched, his own family, including James, had mocked him, saying,

‘“Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.’ For even his own brothers did not believe in him” (John 7:3-5).

Disciplining your tongue and emotions is no overnight accomplishment, not for James, who once used words to taunt Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah.  Not for Paul, not for Peter–and not for you or me.

I’m sure it wasn’t a cake-walk, either, for John the Baptist to be obedient to his call.  I always assumed he lived out in the desert all alone, wearing camel hair and eating honey and wild locusts because he was just a quirky kind of guy.  Maybe he enjoyed that diet.  Maybe he wanted to stand out from the crowd with his own personal style.  People eat odd things and wear “unique” outfits all the time.

Really, though, he wasn’t following a personal health regime or starting his own fashion trend.

John the Baptist was living a life of radical obedience. Surely he smelled the fish crackling over the campfires around the river many nights and longed for a delicious, fulfilling meal.  Certainly he caught the scent of fresh bread baking in the simple homes along the Jordan River and longed not just for a slice of bread, but perhaps a family with whom to share it.

But he kept to his diet of bugs and honey and a life of solitary confinement because of self-disciplined, self-sacrificing obedience.

Paul tells us: I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27, NASB).

That Barbie-look-a-like of a ballerina on my television screen did not perform plies, tendues, and releves fresh out of her mother’s womb.  She took lessons and invested years of intense practice and focused instruction to stand and move and bend with a dancer’s ease and grace.

Don’t give up on your spiritual walk just because the girl in your Bible Study class quotes Scripture like she wrote it herself, or the mom in your prayer group sounds like she prepared her prayers in advance with a poetry instructor, or the woman in front of you during worship service knows all the words to the songs and sings like she means every word.

Don’t be discouraged when you study the Top 40 Heroes of the Faith in Scripture and feel like you fall short.

They struggled.  They messed up.  They sinned. They repented.  They studied, learned from others, were disciplined by God, and humbly grew to maturity.  Never attaining perfection on this planet, they became instead usable vessels for God’s purposes.

We all begin this Spiritual journey imperfect and the very essence of our faith is that we all need a Savior.  So, don’t give up.  Keep exercising the muscles of belief, patience, faith, and self-discipline.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

8 thoughts on “No Pain, No Gain: Part I

  1. Linda Meredith says:

    Seems I heard in Israel that there is a tree, bush or such will a food called a locust and he probably was not eating bugs-have you heard that? As usual-another great reminder of who we are and whose we are! Hugs, Lin

  2. Lynn Holt says:

    Thanks for this message today Heather. You are such an inspiration.
    You are one that I look to and always fall short of. “You” are my hero. 🙂
    Thanks for all you do.
    Be blessed.

    • Heather C. King says:

      Lynn, you are so sweet, but trust me–we are all in this together. I’m only writing about the things God’s gracious enough to teach me, because I need it just as much as everybody else!

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