In continuing my evolving thoughts in Philippians 3, it’s brought me to this thought: There is something mysterious and other-worldy about conversion, whether you experience it as a moment-in-time experience or a series-of-steps-on-a-journey. I grew up hearing the gospel as a child and heard it for years..over and over and over. Until one day…BAM! Like Paul on the Damascus Road, it lights me up and after all these years, I have yet to recover. But godliness never accidently happens. No one wakes up on a random Tuesday, transformed into somethin "godly." That’s why Paul says ‘I press on…’
Which led me to I Corinthians 9:25, where he writes that every athlete competes for a perishable reward, but our rewared is eternal/imperishible. That becomes more true and evident to me as I train for a local race. For instance, I’m NOT a real athlete. (Winning some dopey college intramural doesn’t count. And though I played soccer in college, I’m not sure that counts either…) At the highest level of athletics, everything is done to reach a goal. Lance Armstrong. Tiger Woods. Michael Jordan. Tony Romo. Well, probably not Romo. But for the rest (and multitudes of others), every aspect of life is carefully calculated: how much i sleep. what i eat. how many ounces of protein/carbs/fat I take in. a particular kind of shoe i wear. my sunglasses. how many ounces of water i drink per hour. what kind of ‘free time’ recreational activities I participate in. Everything is designed for them to peak at an optimal performance. They do it for a reward that is perishible. The implication is that WE do it for something imperishible.
Paul confesses, "I don’t run aimlessly without a goal. I’m not some kind of shadow boxer beating at the air like some kind of weekend warrior. I beat my body and make it my slave. I know where I’m going. I have a goal and a plan and I’m fighting the enemies of my plan. I don’t just show up and hope for the best."
My confession is that when things start going bad for me I don’t want to stick to my plan for godliness.You know what i want instead? Starbucks. Because caffeine will make it better for me for a while. Or I want a double swiss and mushroom burger with curly fries and a bladder-buster Dr. Pepper. Or I want sleep. Or sometimes, I want to strap on my iPod, select some Demon Hunter or some Rage Against The Machine (Kiling In The Name Of will do nicely) and run at full speed for an hour. Or find some one i can pummel.
For the record, there are times that everything in me cries out to medicate and numb the frustration and angst. But that’s the last thing I need to do. What I need is Christ. I need to press on and press in. Pray. Throw my life at feet the feet of Christ and confess that, once again, I’ve screwed it up and am trying to do it my way. What my flesh wants is not what it needs. So I beat my body, make it my slave, and fight the enemies of where i want to go.
Paul tells us to ‘train ourselves for godliness’ (I Timothy 4:7-10), which comes from the Greek gymnopsium (we get ‘gymnasium’). It means ‘to sweat’. So, sweat yourself to godliness…don’t just ‘try to get into better spiritual shape this year. The problem is we set pseudo spiritual goals: I’m gonna pray more. I’m gonna get in the word. Plug into REMIX or Chasing Shalom this semester. Good for you, I guess. but godliness doesn’t happen out of ‘want to’. It happens out of discipline, sweat, straining, striving, commitment. Otherwise our whole spiritual life will turn into ‘“want to’s”.
Marathon….train. run when I don’t want to.
I think some people live life. But most people have life live them.
So, where are you running? What are the enemies of that? Have you defined them? Do you know them? For example, I’ve got friends who love to study. They study all the time and if I ever want to talk theology with them, they tcan alk circles around me. But they can’t seem to pray to save their lives. And then I have other friends who have powerful prayer lives…but I’m not sure they can read. And when I speak (or blog) about spiritual things, they sometimes email me and ask me how much time I’ve spent in prayer, because it seems to be lacking in power…The deal is that I need to both of them in my life. Closely.
If I’m ever going to become Philippians 3, it won’t be while on cruise control. It will be fought for. Labored over. Sweated for. Ever thought how strange it is that Paul says to ‘labor with me in prayer’?…