No Pain, No Gain: Part III

I went back for day two.

Sure, I still ached in all my muscle groups and couldn’t navigate the stairs for two days, but I dutifully started the exercise DVD again and followed the instructor’s ever-patient directions.

Then, she told me to “feel joy in the challenge” just as I thought I was going to collapse.  She calmly whispered that I needed not just to focus on moving correctly, but also on looking like I “took joy in the exercise.”

She wanted me to smile about the fact that my legs were on fire.

I talked in No Pain, No Gain: Part I and Part II about the reasons we often fail, give up, and fall back into old habits.

Lesson Three: You Don’t Have to Like It

There’s another agent of sabotage, though.  It’s not just that we demand immediate results from our exercise efforts; it’s that we expect to actually like this fitness stuff.

Some people really do enjoy bicycling frantically and never getting anywhere or kicking at imaginary objects in the air or whatever their fitness plan involves.  These are the Facebook friends whose fitness posts last all year long.  They’re still kickboxing in October and they’re running marathons in December.

But, if you’re anything like me, the problem with exercise is that you . . . don’t . . . like . . . it.

I’d rather spend my time doing most anything else than sweating and aching along with an upbeat exercise instructor.

That’s right, I would rather clean.

And do laundry.

Even go to the dentist.

Here’s the catch.  I don’t like to exercise.  Yet, if I stuck with it and endured the daily boredom and soreness, I would like the results.

I don’t just mean I’d transform into a poster-child for physical fitness.  It’s not about weight loss.  It’s not about dress sizes.  It’s not about looking gorgeous.  Not for me.  After all, our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and that means we need to tend the Temple.  We need to keep it healthy, in repair, and cleaned out.

But, the Temple itself shouldn’t be the object of our worship.  It’s too easy to become obsessed with how our Temple looks on the outside and neglect the internal dwelling space of the Holy Spirit.

No, for me it’s about the fact that my body needs the exercise.  I know my heart and other body systems benefit from the movement, exertion and rhythm.  Not only that, but I know my emotional balance gets a bonus, too.

It’s good for me.  That’s the bottom line.

Even beyond that, I am doing something I know that I need to do even though I don’t like it.  That, my friends, is the very definition of self-discipline.  So, popping in that exercise DVD even when I’m tired, whiny, busy, or just plain (to be honest) lazy works on my character.  Pretty soon, I’m seeing the Holy Spirit fruit of self-discipline popping up all over my life.

We may not enjoy the exercise of our faith-muscles, either.  Not the spiritual battles, the trials, the waiting on God, the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, and daily study.  It takes self-sacrifice to trade in an hour with the TV for an hour with the Lord.  It takes self-denial and some cross-carrying to exchange our will for His and walk in painfully radical obedience.

This isn’t fun.  It certainly isn’t easy.  We don’t journey to Christ-likeness for a good time and a few laughs.

We do it for the results: for the intimacy of our relationship with Him, for the power of our testimony, for the glory of His name, for the future in heaven when all this earthly turmoil is traded in for true unhindered joy.

James wrote:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).

His message to the Jewish Christians was to keep their eyes on the prize.

Notice he didn’t tell them to “feel pure joy” about the trials they faced.  Beth Moore in her study James: Mercy Triumphs says, “The word ‘consider’ calls us to a mental exercise, not an emotion.”

This is when we “boss our feelings around” as Lysa TerKeurst would say.   We may not feel like jumping around rejoicing about our circumstances, but we deliberately and purposefully choose joy in the midst of them, because we know that God is working in us.  There will be results.  We will be more Christ-like tomorrow than we were today.

Now that’s something to motivate you to keep going, my friend.

Not only that, but this perseverance isn’t just passively buckling the seat belt and holding on for dear life as God maneuvers around obstacles.  We don’t just survive various trials.  We don’t collapse at the end of the finish line, having walked the last mile or two of our journey.

We actively endure.  We battle the Enemy.  We conquer our emotions and the slings and arrows of doubt and shame that Satan pommels our mind with every day.

We fight spiritual foes on our knees and then we defeat our own fleshly selves by practicing self-discipline.

And it’s not because we like it.

Our joy is that He’s with us.  It’s our joy that He cares about us enough to carry us through, to fight on our behalf, and to keep working away at our character so that we can be more useful to Him–a vessel fit for showing off the Master’s expertise and also filled to the brim with a testimony of grace to share with others.

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.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King