Story: The Football Player Who Didn’t Work Out

James wanted to be a great football player. He dreamed of making great plays and leading his team to victory.

With such a goal, you would think that James would be a frequent visitor to the gym. After all, all of the other athletes at his school were. They got up early, way before their classmates even thought about stirring, to work out. They jogged after school. Their entire lives revolved around staying in shape and preparing for the next football game.

But James didn’t do these things. He never seemed to have time to work out. When he showed up to practice, the drills completely exhausted him. Maybe he just wasn’t as talented as the others.

He kept telling everyone he knew that he wanted to get better. He was tired of not being able to keep up. Yet he didn’t really want to put in the effort…

“James, is football something worth pursuing?” his coach asked him one day.

“Of course!” James replied quickly.

“Then live like it,” the coach replied. Just like that, James realized that all his excuses were just that—excuses.

He slowly started to work out. But it wasn’t easy! Why did it seem like his muscles built themselves so slowly? And that if he missed a few days, it was even harder?

Yet slowly, imperceptibly sometimes, James’ muscles changed. And one day he surprised himself by being able to keep up on the football field.

Thought: What would it look like if we trained spiritually as seriously as athletes do physically by reading the Word, praying, trusting, praising and worshiping God, running to Jesus, etc.? He is worth it!

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7-8 (ESV)

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 (ESV)

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Short Story: Taking Steps

I just can’t do it, Priscilla thought to herself yet again. Her friends ran marathons, bench pressed, and did other valiant physical feats, but she just couldn’t. She wasn’t happy about her weakness, but there didn’t seem to be much she could do about it either.

Every week she went to a class at the gym. She studied how to exercise. But then she went back home, and life surrounded her. A thousand things demanded her attention, and somehow, exercise just slipped into the background.

She finally forced herself to go for a walk after dinner. But her mind was not on the walk, and her feet only mechanically went through the motions.

One day she casually confessed to a friend how little she felt she exercised. Her friend’s response surprised her. “Do you really want to get in shape, Priscilla?”

The question took Priscilla by surprise. “Of course I want to,” she stated, a tad sharper than necessary.

Her friend raised her eyebrows. “Well, then, you know what to do.”

“I do?” Priscilla asked in confusion.

Her friend smiled. “Of course you do. If you want to get in shape, you begin exercising. You take the first steps, even if they seem small to you. And you keep at it, refusing to give up when it’s not easy. Priscilla dear, don’t settle for the shape you’re in now—take steps to get where you want to be.”

“But I don’t know what steps to take,” Priscilla argued. Even as she said it, though, she blushed with embarrassment. Her father was an Olympic trainer–she’d only to ask him, and he’d show her exactly what to do and help her. In fact, he’d written down instructions already…she’d just been ignoring them. She didn’t really have any excuses; she just needed to begin.

“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8

“If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” 1 Timothy 4:6-8

As we start a new year, it’s a wonderful time to think about steps we can take to seek God and trust Him more. Here are a few ideas:

Pick a Scripture and read it daily each week, asking God to help you live in light of it.
Commit or recommit to daily Bible reading. Don’t let Satan discourage you through comparisons against what others do. Start small if you need to–even a quick 2-minute reading is a beginning. View it like you do physical food–somehow, we make time to eat, even if it’s a quick bite on the go.
Write a Scripture out and put it in your pocket, rereading it throughout the day.
Put Scripture verses up over your light switches or some other place you look frequently as reminders.
Make sure you’re in Christian fellowship/have spiritual accountability.
Memorize Scripture. Again, start small if you need to.
Choose to consciously praise.
Whatever area God has brought to your attention, take the first step to respond, trusting Him to show the next one.

Know that as you take steps to seek God more, the enemy will try to discourage you. Don’t let him. Let each failure serve to drive you back to the cross and remind you of your great Savior who claimed all your sin as His own and freely gave you His righteousness. Remember the Christian walk is a battle–but Jesus has already won the victory. Choose to trust Him and take steps to obey what He says in His Word. Babies don’t start running without first learning to stand, toddle, and then walk. But imagine how sad it would be if a baby gave up after the first fall, discouraged because he couldn’t run!

“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” Ephesians 4:15

“But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 5:14