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Cause and Effect

Spiritual Training Cycle: Perspective (wk. 5/13)

Outcomes. As part of our performance driven culture, so much emphasis is placed on outcomes. Whether that’s your quarterly results at work, your best vacation photo, or the meal at the newest restaurant you waited two months to finally get a reservation for, life can sometimes feel like it only matters if the outcomes are there. The pursuit of fitness can also become overly focused on outcomes. I’ve known many athletes, myself included, who have lost sight of the bigger picture by fixing their gaze solely on results. Wisdom reminds us that life is a journey, not a destination. The journey is where the magic happens. It’s both cause and effect.

Mark Rippetoe, competitive powerlifter, and author of several books on strength training says it this way: “Exercise is the stimulus that returns our bodies to the conditions for which they were designed.” Exercise is the cause. Now I don’t know about you, but when I read that quote, I’m more drawn to imagine my body being returned to the condition for which it was designed. In other words, I gravitate to the effect. Maybe that’s a new PR in a lift. Maybe I make it back into those jeans I’ve held onto since before becoming a parent. Or maybe it’s enough mobility and flexibility that I finally remain injury free. Let’s face it, we all like the effects. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you want the best results in the gym, it’s about the quality of the stimulus you’re providing your body. I tell athletes all the time, if you don’t like the quality of your fitness, change the quality of your work.

Great effects are the result of great causes

Spiritual fitness is no different. Spiritual fitness is the journey that returns our bodies to the conditions for which they were designed. God has an ultimate design for your life. You need to exercise your spiritual muscles to see what that ultimate design truly is. And in my opinion, there’s no better exercise for spiritual growth than worship. Now, before you tune me out, let me tell you what worship is. Because it’s more than just the songs people sing in church.

Worship is the giving of our entire self, our thoughts, and our emotions, to God’s use. It’s a state of our heart. The word itself means, “the quality of being worthy.” When we worship, we are saying that God is worthy. He is worthy of our praise. Praise from both our bodies and our souls. The result, or effect, of worship is a renewal of the mind, transforming us more and more into the image of Christ.

What causes us to worship? We worship out of a deep love and affection for God. In today’s Scripture, Paul calls the Romans to worship out of their understanding of God’s mercy. But he doesn’t tell them to sing. Instead, they are to give their bodies as a living sacrifice. Every act of obedience to God is an act of worship. Whether that’s how we work, how we drive, or even how we exercise. If we are submitting to God, we are worshipping.

And the effect of worship is a total body makeover, spiritually speaking. Like a caterpillar goes into the cocoon and emerges a butterfly, as we worship God we emerge over time as someone completely different. It’s not just an improvement in who we are. We actually become new creations in Christ. We are returning our bodies to the conditions for which they were designed, and that’s to be fully connected to God and made in the image of Christ. We see the results of worship in our behavior, in our emotions, and in our thoughts. Worship is a powerful exercise for spiritual growth. So, if you find yourself frustrated with every human on the planet, or anxious about all that’s going on, or not living up to the life you imagined for yourself, it may be time to change the quality of your spiritual work, starting with worship. It’s all about cause and effect.

Questions for Reflection:

What does worship look like in your life? How does Paul’s definition match with yours?

If following Christ transforms us, what causes some people to backslide?

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