Spiritual Training Cycle: Submission (wk. 3/13)
“Murph” – if you’re a CrossFit athlete, you know this workout, and probably both look forward to it and dread it: a one-mile run followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 air squats, followed by another one-mile run. If you’re experienced, you can do the workout while wearing body armor or a weighted vest. While this workout is well-known in the CrossFit community, no matter what athletic community you belong to, you know – the toughest workouts require you to face physical and mental challenges designed to push you to your limits.
What’s a limit? It’s the outer boundary or edge of something. Some limits are fixed while others are fluid. For example, the edge of the cliff at the Grand Canyon is fixed. You go too far and despite what you want, gravity is taking over. The limits of fitness, by contrast, are fluid. The goal of exercise is to eventually push an athlete beyond their current limits. When that happens, the body’s physiology adapts, the brain exchanges fear for confidence, and new limits are formed. The journey to new limits is all about progress.
When it comes to our spiritual life, we have limits too. We have a set of internal desires that seek to limit our connection to God. Scripture refers to this as, “the flesh.” And while many people think the problem with fleshly desires is that they have no limits, that’s not always the case. Our internal desire for self-preservation works the opposite way. It imposes artificial limits through the unhealthy production of excess fear.
Fear can be a limiter. It can be paralyzing. Fear can also trigger a whole host of fleshly emotions like inadequacy, insecurity, and anxiety. Think about how these show up in your fitness journey. Sometimes all it takes is thinking about a breakthrough to have a breakdown. Why do you think so many sedentary people remain that way? Do you think seat-belt extenders on an airplane is what someone dreamt of as a child? No. But the overindulgence of food combined with the insecurity of body image, or the fear of ridicule, or the thoughts of inadequacy compared to others stopped everything dead on the tracks. Limits choke off life as they tighten. All someone needs to reverse the process is momentum. And momentum starts with progress.
Just move. Just lift. Just try. Just get out there and go for it. Progress pushes past the limits. And the beautiful thing is that progress is different for everyone. Some athletes do ring rows in Murph instead of pull-ups. That’s progress. Some athletes completed Murph in under 45 minutes last year so this year they wear a weighted vest. That’s progress. But that progress isn’t only having an effect on the physical body. It’s also battling the paralyzing side of the flesh. It’s showing us what’s truly possible.
That’s what the Apostle Paul wanted for a Pastor named Timothy. Timothy was thrust into a difficult situation and asked to lead. He had his own feelings of inadequacy and probably, like many of us, wondered if he had reached his limit. But his spiritual coach, Paul, knew that more was possible. And so rather than give some rah-rah speech, Paul told Timothy to get to work. To make some progress. To set an example.
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and purity. 1 Timothy 4:12
Paul wanted Timothy to push past his limits. To be an example to others in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and purity. In other words, just do something. Make some progress. Don’t talk about it – be about it. Paul wanted the church to see Timothy’s progress and he wanted Timothy’s progress to build his perseverance.
Think about it. Every time you take on a tough workout, every time you pick up a heavy barbell, every time you give it everything you have, you build perseverance. The fear that once held you back doesn’t hold you anymore. Progress builds perseverance. So, what progress do you need to make? In other words, what fear, or fears, are limiting you? Maybe you need to pray out loud for other people. Maybe you need to stop waiting for the right moment to step out – the moment is now! The battle to overcome our internal desires is not about control. It’s about letting go of control. God is shaping and forming you in the midst of everything life is bringing your way. And He’s taking you to new limits.
Questions for Reflection:
How do your internal set of desires affect your physical fitness journey? Do they hold you back or propel you forward?
How could your journey of spiritual progress inspire others? What would you want them to know?