Points to Ponder/Training on Loving Life
by Pastor Dennis Whitmore
Two mornings per week I take a 45 minute “spin class”, an aerobics class which is done entirely on stationary bicycles. The instructor is up front, on a bike, barking out orders to shift the resistance to higher or lower levels; to stand and “climb the hill” or sit and spin our legs in a 15 second sprint. The good, experienced instructor knows his/her class, how far and how hard to push them, and when to back off for rest intervals.
Our regular instructor is an upbeat muscular 50-something man who picks a wide variety of music and encourages his sweating students to “challenge yourself”! Sometimes after a particular set of climbs and sprints he will smile and say, “You are looking strong. You are loving life!” A lot of us do not feel that way, but it is good to hear the leader set the standard and say “hey, you are doing okay, keep it up.”
Occasionally, our instructor would call on each member of the class, in the last 20 minutes of class, to take one minute and lead the group. A variety of styles resulted, and it was unpredictable how hard or easy that minute would be, depending on the sadistic nature of the student. But, in that way, the experienced leader was testing us to see who could replace him in the near future.
Over the past month, one of my classmates moved from cycling beside me to being the instructor. He has allergies and some lung capacity difficulties. Being a student was challenging enough, but when he had to spin and yell out the instructions, and breathe, he struggled. Sometimes we got longer rest intervals because HE needed it.
However, there is something about the responsibility of leadership that empowers one to gain a level of strength that being among the disciples just does not quite accomplish. In recent days I have observed his lung capacity improving, his need for a lengthy rest interval gone, and a heightened proficiency at yelling instructions while maintaining his own pace. We had been taking this class together for over a year; but now that he is teaching it, he has improved markedly in just a month. That is a point to ponder which has a spiritual application.
The writer to the Hebrews cuts short his exposition on the high priesthood of Jesus Christ because they had become “dull of hearing” (Heb. 5:11). They were unable to comprehend these deeper truths because they were not growing spiritually. Over time they had slumped into a rut of complacent immaturity.
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.” (Hebrews 5:12-13 NKJV)
Even the most skilled athletes or craftsmen, or anyone with special training, regresses without regular practice. Skills are sharpened and improved by continuously challenging them to reach a higher standard of proficiency.
If you are not one to talk about your faith, or share it, or impart its truth to someone who needs to know it, you will eventually not have a good grasp of it yourself. Usually it will be a child who will ask a simple, yet profound question about God, and you will be stumped. In that moment of futility, as you grasp for knowledge you once had, you will realize you are “out of shape”; you have become immature.
As the writer admonishes us:
“...Solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:14 NKJV)
The scripture tells us that if you are not actively “working out” (Phil 2:12b) your faith and seeking to grow in what you know, you will lose what you had. Someone will have to “teach you again the first principles.” The unskilled in the word can not receive the deeper insights nor grow to their full potential in faith because they are not handling, practicing, and working with what they have.
The command Jesus gave to all of His disciples is to go into all the world and make disciples, teaching them. (Matt 28:20) Every one of us should have such an understanding of our faith that we could explain it. We are commanded to “work out” and mature in our knowledge of the Lord. (See I Peter 3:15, II Timothy 3:16-17)
“Challenge Yourself! You are looking strong. You are loving life!” Yes, it’s work. It will require discipline, but it feels so good when you are finally strong enough to “take that hill,” and then with confidence to lead others to follow your example.
Jesus promised his followers an abundant life (John 10:10). Isn’t it true that you work at the things you love? How much more would your love for God grow if you worked a little more on really knowing Him?
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Whitmore serves God at the First United Methodist Church in Laurel, MD.