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Understanding Output

Spiritual Training Cycle: Connection (wk. 2/13)

In my adult life, I had never been a runner. For a decade, I focused solely on making my body as muscular as possible. Athletic performance was not a primary focus. Or even a secondary focus. Cardio machines? No thanks, treadmills kill gains. But when all the gyms closed in 2020, sidewalks, however, were available. I was forced to choose a new challenge, so I started my first half marathon prep. I weighed 255 lbs. and my pace was impossibly slow. Every stride felt awful. If my knees were going to survive, I had to relearn how to run. This kind of output would make my half marathon slower than even the worst full marathon runner. I had to break down the process of running if I was going to improve. By analyzing my output, I could deconstruct the ways to get better.

In our physical fitness, analyzing our output is usually the first step in determining our faults. If our output is not ideal, we must break up the exercise. When we deconstruct an exercise, we look at the fundamental components and techniques. With my running, I started with these fundamentals: posture, head position, cadence, stride length, “foot strike”, and core engagement. By looking at each part individually, I was able to develop more strength in specific areas.

Our spiritual output is also based on the structure of fundamental components. I reflect on the output of my life before I developed a relationship with God. I think about how unstable my life felt. Analyzing the output of my actions showed me how spiritually dead I was. My relationships weren’t healthy, my time alone didn’t reflect my values, and my self-worth relied heavily on external praise. Looking at the output of my life showed me that there were spiritual components I was lacking and even failing altogether. I needed to get spiritually stronger. Getting spiritually stronger required me to deconstruct what it meant to live righteously.

Getting spiritually stronger required me to deconstruct what it meant to live righteously.

What I needed first was salvation. Salvation is the work God does to move us from death to life. Salvation is the route to greater spiritual output, which we refer to as righteousness. By understanding salvation, we can deconstruct what it means to live righteously. The Apostle Paul provides a framework which teaches us the path to righteousness.

Romans 6:15-16 says, “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”

Then later in Romans 6:22-23, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Paul is saying that the output of a life of sin is death, or eternal separation from God. But the output of receiving salvation is righteousness and eternal life with God. These are the structures or components of our salvation: faith, receiving grace, identifying and removing sin, obeying God’s word, then moving forward in righteousness. A weakness in any of these structures can lead to a decrease in our spiritual output. Righteousness is the output of building up strength in each of these components.

Analyzing the output of our running stride gives us a look at the weak components. Analyzing the output of our spiritual life gives us an understanding of the need for salvation in order to move forward in righteousness. If there is no salvation, then all attempts to live a rich and satisfying life will fall short. When we move forward in faith and receive grace we are no longer separated from God. Spiritual everlasting life comes from God’s saving grace through Jesus.

Questions for Reflection:

What does righteousness look like for you?

What are some of the outputs of your life that aren’t rooted in righteousness?

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