Lessons from the Gym

Until recently, I’ve struggled trying to find some kind of exercise that will work for me. I tried walking and running, which I had to stop due to plantar fasciitis. I tried aerobics, which threw out my back—twice. I tried the elliptical and weight lifting, which aggravated my carpal tunnel syndrome.

Geez, I thought. Am I ever going to find the thing that I can do?

A few months ago, my husband came home from the YMCA and announced, “Hey, they’ve got these new rowing machines in the Functional Training Center. You ought to try them. You could row a little on the machine and then run a little on the track upstairs. That way, you won’t stress yourself too much by doing one thing for a long time. And, by the way, they’re having a rowing challenge—to see if anyone can row 50,000 meters by the end of the month. You should sign up for it.”

Well, I tried out the rowing and running, and I loved it. I would row 1,000 meters and run a quarter mile 5 times during my workout. It was mid-month when I started, and I figured out how many days I would need to go to the FTC in order to row 50,000 meters by the end of the month. Despite my physical challenges, I could do the exercise, and I completed the rowing challenge! I have found the thing I can do!

Life is like that. We all search for “our thing”, what God made us to do, the thing that feels right. Above all, He made us for a relationship with Him, that we might truly know Him (Isaiah 43:10) and find abundant and eternal life through Jesus His Son (John 10:10; 3:16). Yet, beyond that, He also made each of us with an eternal purpose in mind (Ephesians 2:10), and He wants each of us to find the thing we can do for His glory (Isaiah 43:7), to bring praise and honor to Him. If we are persistent in finding this thing (Jeremiah 33:3; 29:13), He will lead us to it (Psalm 32:8).

We each have our own race to run.

One day, when I was exercising at the YMCA, I started my brief run around the track and soon came up behind an older man, who was shuffling around the pathway. He struggled to walk, but he was making progress. A few minutes later, the door to the track flung open, and three high school boys emerged. They zipped around the circuit, the floor pounding under their feet.

Each of us was doing our thing at our own pace and rhythm. Hebrews 12:1, NASB, says, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” and it goes on to say how we do that in verse 2: by “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.”  We don’t need to be comparing ourselves to others and their “things” or their pace; we just need to be doing our thing with Jesus. The joy comes from running our race with Jesus while we do what He created us to do.

We are meant to encourage one another in the great race of life.

While God created each of us for a special purpose (Acts 13:22, 36), with an individual race to run, He also designed us to do our thing in a community of believers, where we can encourage and help one another (Hebrews 10:25).

Just a few weeks ago, my son Patrick began joining me in my exercise routine. He is much stronger than me and totally dominates that rowing machine and track, but we often high five one another as we pass going to and from the track. His boundless smile keeps me going, and his encouraging words lighten the load of the workout. Hebrews 3:13, NASB, says, “Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today’”. That’s what I experience at the gym with my son, and that’s what I experience with God’s people.

Sometimes, when I am rowing at the same time as Patrick, I try to keep up with him, rowing at the same speed, matching his movements. It pushes me to do my best. We can do the same with other Christians. We can learn from their godly examples and try to imitate their example. Paul encouraged this practice when he said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, NASB). Godly role models and mentors can be a great blessing in our lives. The Lord can use them to inspire us, just like my son inspires me at the YMCA.

Jesus is waiting for us at the finish line.

Sometimes, when I go to do my thing at the gym, my body doesn’t want to cooperate. Fatigue, tired muscles, and even pain sometimes plague me, but it’s all worth it when I finish the workout and feel that sense of physical and emotional accomplishment. Some days, I pray my way through the exercise, asking God to help me finish; other days, I race through the program, thanking the Lord for the strength and exhilaration I feel. Either way, I am doing what He led me to do with Him, and that creates tremendous joy.

An even greater joy awaits all of us who know Jesus. Despite the fact that we face limitations, struggles, heartache, and pain this side of heaven, one truth overarches it all:  Jesus is waiting for us at the finish line, when the “workout” of our earthly lives is over.

It says in 1 Corinthians 9:24, NASB, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” Lots of folks in this world are running after lots of different things, but our prize is Jesus.  We run with, for, and toward Him; as Philippians 3:14, NASB, says, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus said, “‘Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also’” (John 14:1-3, NASB).

Much to my surprise, when I completed the rowing challenge at the YMCA, I was awarded a gift card. A YMCA staff member told me I had rowed the largest number of meters. I was dumbfounded. I didn’t even know there was a prize.

Yet, we are told as believers that a prize waits for us—eternity with Jesus. One day, each of us will leave the gym of life and step into eternity.  May each of us be able to say, as Paul did, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith,” knowing . . . “in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NASB).

See you in the gym!

Question:  How is your “workout” going in the gym of life? How can we pray for you? Comment at the link below.


Isaiah 43:10; John 10:10; 3:16; Ephesians 2:10; Isaiah 43:7; Jeremiah 33:3; 29:13; Psalm 32:8; Hebrews 12:1-2; Acts 13:22, 36; Hebrews 10:25; 3:13; 1 Corinthians 11:1; 9:24; Philippians 3:14; John 14:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:7-8



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