By Dan Williams
For the past twenty-one years I have been trudging down to the gym five times a week to pump iron, bike, and swim laps. Don’t think I report that boastfully: on the contrary, I’m not trying to bulk up or become the next governor of California or anything like that. It’s just that I have to battle an inherited disability: you see, eating runs in my family. I long ago made the unpleasant medical discovery that unless I regularly engage in some sort of activity that will elevate my heart rate and cause me to break a sweat, all those calories I consume will show up in places where I don’t want them.
Since I have been a regular gym rat for more than two decades, I know what to expect this month. In January the gym is always filled with the New Year’s crowd. You know, those folks who have awakened from their holiday sugar binge and made their New Year’s resolutions to become healthier. The sudden surge after January 1 often causes delays when I want to get on my favorite Nautilus machine, but I don’t become too upset. I have learned to simply wait a few weeks, and the crowd will thin out again. It happens every year.
My personal observation in the gym seems to be typical of human nature in general. Fewer than half of all New Year’s resolutions last six months, according to a study by psychology professor John Norcross of the University of Scranton. I haven’t done any research myself, but I have a tentative hypothesis to explain his findings: people give up on their New Year’s resolutions for the same reason they desert the gym – they arrive at the unwelcome discovery that making beneficial improvements in our life is hard work.
Few New Year’s resolutions involve eating more candy bars or taking more naps or running up a higher debt on our credit cards – those things are easy. We set personal goals because we want changes in our life that are positive, and the positive changes we desire are difficult, or we would already be doing them.
My hypothesis is probably too obvious to win any research grants, but it does help to explain why Jesus candidly cautioned would-be disciples that following him is not easy (Luke 9:57-62). Since the Lord wants everyone to be saved and will never turn away a sincere seeker (John 6:37), I must conclude that Jesus issued such warnings to prevent disillusionment. Our Lord knew full well that the “time of testing” would come for each one of us, and consequently some would fall away (Luke 8:13); that is why he wants us to be prepared for difficulties and stresses that success comes by “persevering” (Luke 8:15). And, of course, on the Cross Jesus set the ultimate example of perseverance, so that by considering his example we would “not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
So, have you been tempted to give up on your faith, to “quit church,” to withdraw into spiritual isolation? Have you hit a rough patch in the road and now you are questioning your faith? I wish I could give you some easy answers, but the Bible says nothing about easy discipleship.
Following Jesus, like any other positive change in our life, is hard work. Please don’t ever think it’s easy – just remember, it’s worth it.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up” – Galatians 6:9.
- Dan Williams; via The Encourager, the weekly bulletin for the Calvert City church of Christ, Calvert City, KY. Lance Cordle preaches for the congregation. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.calvertchurchofchrist.com