If you were to look at me, your first reaction probably wouldn’t be that I work out. You’d be forgiven for drawing that conclusion, because I really don’t look like someone who goes to the gym four times a week. There’s a very simple reason for that; this is a new thing.
I’ve been working on my #gains for about four months now, and it’s starting to show, but since I started off with a combination of weedy arms and slight belly, it’ll take a while for proper transformation to happen in my physique. Looking at me, it would be understandable for you to ask: “Bro, do you even lift?”
As I’ve reflected on my fledgling experience at the gym, I’ve realised an important discipleship principle; you can’t expect large-scale change in a short space of time. For a long time, people who have recently come to faith have been expected to start behaving like lifelong churchgoers as soon as they step over the threshold. If they haven’t quit smoking, stopped swearing and instantly married their live-in partner, they clearly haven’t properly met Jesus. The thing is, that kind of thinking is like expecting me to pay my joining fee at the gym and instantly have the Captain America body I told my wife I was aiming for. Sadly, Dr Erkine’s serum isn’t real, so I can’t go from skinny weakling to ripped superhero in a moment.
Discipleship is a lifelong process. It’s a journey of transformation through which we are changed from one degree of glory to the next (2 Corinthians 3:18) as the Holy Spirit works in us. When I decided to follow Jesus, there were certain elements of my behaviour and character that were instantly changed – you can read more about that on my blog – but in the 10 years since then, the Holy Spirit has gradually worked on my heart, changing me more into the likeness of Jesus. Even after 10 years, I’m still nowhere near perfect!
When I joined the gym, some things did change right away. I started actually going to the gym, for starters. I changed things in my diet. I set my alarm a little earlier in the morning. I started reading blogs about fitness, to learn the best ways to train. I admit that I have had moments of frustration that I’m not progressing as fast as I’d like. I think we’ve all had those moments in our own discipleship. However, in those moments I’ve been learning to focus on the small changes that have happened. I lifted a little more this week than last week. I peddled a bit further on the bike than yesterday. My belly seems to have shrunk a little bit, if I look carefully and breathe in a bit.
It’s so easy to look at people in church who seem not to behave the way they ought to and think: “Bro, do you even lift?” or: “Are you really following Jesus?” We need to challenge those thoughts as they come, because we’re all becoming more like Jesus a little bit at a time. My prayer is that I’d be more like Jesus today than I was yesterday.