Chances are that you are a bad athlete. No school has ever paid for your tuition so that you would play a sport for them. You’re not in any hall of fame.
But maybe you really are a good athlete. Perhaps even an elite athlete. You can lift more weight than most people. You’re running a lot of miles. Your pants are getting looser.
Those are all good things. But good things tend to come with slippery slopes. This one is no different.
That’s why you should just give up.
Not on your diet, your weight-training or your goal of running a half-marathon. Keep doing them. Enjoy them and the benefits that they bring.
Just stop putting your identity in how well you did in the Work Out of the Day. You are not your athletic ability. You are not your box jumps. You are not your dead lift personal record. You are not defined by your waistline. When we forget those things, we are on the slippery slope. When we place our identity in our ability, we are speeding down that slope to a cliff of well-intentioned self-destruction.
You can always do more.
Your last best accomplishment was not enough.
Those are the hard realities you will have to live with on a daily basis if you allow yourself to believe that you are your athletic ability or the number you see on the scale. And, if you’re not careful, your doing more and trying harder can quickly become your god. Unlike the real God who moves toward his people through his Son (Matthew 1:23; James 4:7-8) this god always keeps his subjects at a distance.
Even still, worship services are held in honor of this god throughout the week at gyms, boxes and on scales. His sacraments are diet and exercise. There is no grace. There is only guilt.
So listen to Jesus and just quit.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)
Jesus doesn’t have a problem with a good diet and exercise. In fact, he likes those things. They are two very good ways to take care of the body that he has given to you. But they only go so far.
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 4:8 (ESV)
Your lower blood pressure, smaller waist and nice form on your overhead press are of value to you and others. The Bible says it. But their value is limited, lasting only for this life. And then you die. People with six pack abs and a three and a half hour marathon time still go to hell.
People who have been told that they are overweight and who struggle to make it up a flight of stairs can still enjoy the approval of God. That’s because, no matter what we can or cannot bring to the table, God’s enjoyment of us has nothing to do with our spiritual, academic or physical resume. It is solely because of his grace and it can only be realized through repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ.
I’m a big fan of CrossFit. I work out at an excellent CrossFit box with great instructors three or four days a week. I usually lift less weight and finish much slower than anyone else in the room. I look nothing like the guys who compete in the CrossFit games on ESPN.
That would be a problem if who I am was defined by what I can do.
But it’s not a problem. That’s because who I am is defined by the One I belong to.
So the next time you feel like a terrible person because you ate a piece of pizza or because you can’t lift 200 pounds over your head, just remember what Jesus really cares about. He’s glad that you’re taking care of yourself.
But he really delights in the fact that you have put your hope and identity in him.
No matter how bad of an athlete you are.
His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. Psalm 147:11 (ESV)