Due to the instability of the joints in my shoulders and upper back, I am supposed to perform daily exercises to strengthen the muscles around these joints. Notice I said, "I am supposed to." The truth is, I hate strength training. Give me a nice walk or even a strenuous hike, and I'm a happy camper, but hand me a pair of dumbbells, and my body groans. While I know the strength training is good for me and that it will eventually help with the instabilities, it's difficult to make myself do them for a couple of reasons.
First, it takes time out of my already busy schedule. There is writing to do, housework to perform, and an entire list of other things that need to be done on any given day. Who has time to stop and perform rigorous strength training exercises? Truth be told, it doesn't take that long to perform the required sets, but in my mind, those few minutes represent time that I could be doing something I actually want to do.
Second, I abstain from doing them regularly because it hurts. With the instability of my joints and the weakness of my muscles, even the most basic motions are painful to me. Most people wouldn't think twice about or have any trouble raising their arms up over their head ten times in a row, but for me, it's excruciating. Again, I realize that the old saying "no pain, no gain" is true and that eventually, the exercises will be less painful and will produce more stable joints. But I have to get through the painful process first, and that's not easy.
The Bible has a lot to say about this very topic. First Timothy 4:7-8 says, But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. 8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
Now, I could do what a lot of people do and use the first phrase of verse eight to justify a lack of exercise. After all, the Bible says that bodily exercise doesn't profit much, right? And, believe it or not, I have heard this excuse from those who are unwilling to perform any sort of physical exercise. But we must understand that this is not what the Bible is saying here. It is not, in any way, encouraging us to not take care of our bodies, and if we compare this verse with the rest of the Scriptures, we will know and understand that.
What Timothy is telling us is that spiritual exercise is more important than physical, though that's not to say that the physical is not important as well. These verses encourage us to exercise ourselves unto godliness, and just like physical exercise, this can be a painful and time-consuming experience. We don't become like Christ in an instant. It takes time, and it takes work. We have to surrender our lives completely to Christ, dying to our own desires day after day. We have to follow His commands and constantly fight to keep the old man down.
And sometimes, it is quite painful. The truth is that the harder we try to serve God, the harder Satan will fight against us. The road to godliness is not an easy one, and we're guaranteed many heartaches along the way. But just as with physical exercise, we must keep our eyes on the goal and the end result rather than the difficulty of the process itself.
Physically speaking, I look forward to the day I can go into my chiropractor's office and hear him declare that none of my joints are out of place. I long for the time that I can go for long stretches without feeling the sickening thud of a dislocating shoulder or collarbone. I dream of the days that the pain radiating up and down my arms is so minimal that I almost don't realize it's there. Are these things possible? I believe they are if I am willing to do the daily exercises that will strengthen my muscles and protect my joints.
Likewise, a peaceful life of nearness with God is possible. True, we will never reach a sinless state while here on earth, but we can strive to get as close to God as we can. God will not limit how close we can get to him. But we must be willing to exercise that godliness to strengthen our faith and protect our hearts from the distractions of this world.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some exercises – both physical and spiritual – to perform. Let the workout begin!