Staying in Shape

The complete text of the message of Sunday, November 15, 2020 for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH:

For audio of this message, please click here. Adjust your volume, if necessary. It’s a little louder than what I would prefer.

Not too far into the Pandemic shutdown, Lynn, my wife and I were settling in to the new normal; unfortunately, our weekly routine of roller skating on Thursdays and working out on Saturday mornings was completely wiped out.  We were no longer able to use our physical therapy site for wellness workouts as they were restricted to accept only current patients for therapy.  Our roller rink was closed for a long time, and while we tried it once when they finally opened, the atmosphere there was very uncomfortable.  The lockdowns was having a negative impact on our activity outside of home.

After a few weeks of mulling over our situation, we decided we needed to move forward with a change before we both turned into, as I like to say, “tubs of goo.”  It was even more necessary for us to get back into a routine because we needed to keep our backs strong along with getting in better shape.  We decided to look into joining the local recreation center in Macedonia, which is not far from where we live.  As it turned out, they had reduced the overall price for membership, and it would actually allow us to use the facility at different times of the day, which we were unable to do before.  The rec center allows us to walk on an indoor track and use their machines for weightlifting and core training.  It’s clean and well kept.  It’s wonderful!  We are now able to work out three times a week and walk at least a mile every day.

Our problem was finally solved.  We can both keep moving and stay in shape, and keep working our way through this with the proper focus.

Working our way each day with the proper focus.

Compare this example with how we are to maintain our daily focus on Jesus Christ and His Word.  We have to not only get in shape as we grow in Christ, but also stay in shape with a regular daily routine as we continue to seek after Jesus.

Why do we need to put an effort into this?  It’s simple.  It requires a daily effort to sit down, set aside some time, and read the Word, reflect on it, and live in such a way where what you put into it will come out of you with words and actions that reflect your life in Jesus Christ.  It is all to be done with the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Our dilemma in needing to resume exercise was to not have all of the work we had put in over the last three years be completely undone with inactivity.  We had to find a way to get back into a routine and stay with it.

Just as impactful exercise requires a regular routine, your efforts in learning more about Jesus Christ also requires your undivided attention.

As a believer, if you don’t stay focused on His Word on a consistent basis, your fellowship efforts with Jesus Christ won’t necessarily be completely undone, but it will have an adverse effect on your growth and development in Christ.

Our greatest reasons for not staying focused on God’s Word, prayer and meditation:

Distractions.  We get distracted very easily.

This is not a message about psychology and how the mind works, but suffice it to say that we, in general, will gravitate to whatever is at the forefront of our minds.  Sometimes, admittedly, those things have nothing to do with the development of a relationship with Jesus.

Here are a number of things that can distract our focus on Jesus Christ:

Fatigue

Television and movies

Smartphones

Social media

Hobbies

Think of what you would like to be doing right at this very moment, and it most likely is a distraction.

Now, there are other distractions that I’ll go into that may be related to some of the ones listed, and there may be even some that, when you think about your own habits, may come to mind.   Let’s look at what happens when we lose our focus on getting in shape in the Lord and staying in shape.

Consider this passage in Galatians, Chapter 5:

Galatians 5:17-18 ESV

17 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The desires of the flesh lead to fleshly actions.  The previous list that we came up with can reflect a mindset that what you are doing, for a certain period of time, if you are not careful, can draw you into a place where you are satisfying fleshly desires.

Please remember:  Your flesh desires those things that are ultimately anti-Christ.

What else can cause one to lose focus on getting in shape and staying in shape?  Getting lost in everyday worries and concerns.

A major distraction for many of us, whether working or even retired, is losing control of focus due to hectic life schedules.  I’m being more specific here because many of us often battle with schedules, timing and getting things done.  We have to be careful to put life’s busyness aside and make time for Jesus Christ.

Luke 10:38-42 ESV

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Now, there was nothing wrong with Martha’s desire to get things together in the house, as she was dealing with what we can refer to as unexpected company.  What we need to see here is that our good intentions can sometimes take the focus off what is really important.  That’s what Jesus was saying here.  It wasn’t just about the housework.  Jesus said Martha was anxious and troubled about many things, and those things were keeping her focus off of Jesus.

I’m focusing on this particular area because this area of busyness and a lack of focus can be a huge stumbling block for believers.  There are a number of reasons why a person can’t get in shape for Christ and stay in shape, and a lot of it has to do with distractions like this.

What overcomes distractions that come from the flesh, the world, or even from your cell phone?

Discipline. 

Only Discipline.  Your desire for Christ comes from a consistent approach and practice of discipline while trusting that the Holy Spirit will help you.

You want to get in shape and stay in shape?  It requires your drive and determination to get into a regular program and also, if you need extra motivation, hiring a personal trainer.  Your personal trainer will give you direction, encouragement and provide a plan to get you in shape.  As you stay after it with a number of follow-up sessions, the trainer will help you build your strength and stamina. 

When it comes to the Word and learning more about Jesus, the Holy Spirit is your personal trainer.  The Spirit is your indwelling motivation to give you what you need to succeed:

Drive.

Direction.

Determination.

Motivation.

Encouragement.

You will need all of these things and the power of the Spirit to overcome the distractions that keep you from God’s focus.

Let’s start with overcoming the anxiety and cares of the world by looking at what the Word says about this.

We have all heard these verses before, and there are literally a dozen or more of these that you can find, but note how often we need the Holy Spirit to remind us of these truths:

Philippians 4:6-7 ESV

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

John 14:27 ESV

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Proverbs 12:25 ESV

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.

Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In order to let go of our anxiety, we have to make a decision to let it go.  We have to step out on faith and believe that Jesus is going to do what He says He’s going to do.

He has, and He will continue to be true to Himself and to His Word.  Have faith in Him.

And what about that personal trainer that we are comparing to what the Holy Spirit can do for you?

Workout classes with a personal trainer are very intense.  I told my company personal trainer that she wasn’t going to kill me in one of her classes.  I do know that if you were to take classes from her each week, she would definitely get you in shape and keep you in shape.

In order to grow, you have to show up for your workouts.  The same applies to the Holy Spirit.  While believers understand that the Spirit dwells within, you still need to show up and allow the Spirit to work in your life.  That, too, is a matter of faith.

Hebrews 12:11 ESV

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

When you call on the wisdom and guidance of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, He will train you.  It may be uncomfortable, for sure, because He will teach you all about who you are.  But you need to know who you are as you look to Him.

He will build your sense of discipline. 

He will calm your fears. 

He will give you a sense of purpose and meaning.

2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

This self-control helps you to focus on what really matters…getting before the Lord and getting into the Word.  The more you get into the Word, the Spirit will inspire you to get into even better shape!  The Word is the key to learning more about your relationship with Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit is your Personal Trainer.  Show up for your session with Him every day, and get after it!

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Stay in shape and let Him teach you as you go forward.

© 2020 Melvin Gaines

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