I love running. There’s nothing like getting out on the trail, putting one foot in front of another, and checking off the miles. It’s my fresh air, my exercise, and my alone time all in one!
But no matter how much I love running, in winter my dread of the cold will always win. Even though I know I will be perfectly warm in less than half a mile, I still can’t get myself to get all dressed up and get out the door. (Except yesterday. 60° and sunny on January 23 – what?!?)
Winter for me means it’s time for indoor workouts. And thankfully there are tons of them on YouTube!
A few weeks ago, I tried a new ‘high intensity’ cardio and strength training workout. As the video began, though, I was annoyed at the lame warm-up exercises. This workout needed to replace several miles of running and I was promised 45 minutes of intensity, so I wanted intensity! These simple moves were certainly not profitable for strength or cardio training. So I began adding my own ‘flair’ to the exercises to make them more ‘intense’.
If you know anything about working out, you know what happened next. Not even two minutes in, I pulled something in my back and that was that. 45 minutes of high-intensity movement turned into 20 minutes of low-intensity stretching. It turns out warm-ups exist for a reason!
Obedience is a funny thing. Even when given instructions by experts or professionals, something inside of our human selves believes we know better and wants to go our own way. Though we ourselves seek out this advice, we have a hard time following it when we don’t see it as profitable to our immediate situation.
This year I’ve made it my goal to learn more about what it means to listen to God. I want to know what He wants me to do, but I’m never sure if I’m hearing His voice or my own! I hear people tell stories of the Holy Spirit “leading” them to do certain things, but how do I know what He’s leading me to do?
My ‘theme verse’ for the year is found in the fifth chapter of Luke:
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”
“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” (Luke 5:4-5)
As a fisherman, Simon (Peter) knew a lot about his trade. He knew the ideal time of day to throw out the nets and he also knew that if you’ve worked all night (the ideal time) and haven’t caught anything, then going out again during the day (a non-ideal time) would never be a profitable solution! So rather than simple, immediate obedience, Peter first made sure he got his two cents in about why he shouldn’t do it in the first place.
What Jesus asked him to do did not seem like a profitable endeavor, but what Peter said next is my favorite: “But if you say so”. Though he believed he knew better, Peter decided to take Jesus at his word and do it anyway:
And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.
When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. (v. 6-9)
With all the paralyzing over-analyzing my brain loves to do, what I wouldn’t give to be in the physical presence of Jesus and have Him vocally tell me exactly what to do! If I could hear actual words, there would be no questioning, “Is this from God or from me?” But knowing my track record, I would still respond like Peter – I would still think I know better!
Believing myself to be the expert on my circumstances and a professional predictor of the profit of an act of obedience, I regularly assess the risk, effort, or cost and decide it’s not worth it. It’s hard to see our small acts of obedience as having an intense impact on the world!
But the profit of our obedience is never the result of our actions – it’s the result of God working through our actions. We’re not Him, so our estimate of the outcome is limited, but He has the ability to make huge Kingdom gains happen from small movements.
The other day, while agonizing in my head as to whether or not God was leading me to do a thing, these words, “But if you say so,” came to mind. In that moment I realized that my debate was not over whether or not God was speaking to me – but rather my selfish nature coming up with a hundred reasons why I thought it was pointless!
My ‘motivational purchase’ for this winter was a TRX suspension training system. Much cheaper (and way more introvert-friendly) than a gym membership, these straps take advantage of the forces of gravity and your own body weight to strengthen and tone muscles.
In the few weeks I’ve been doing these workouts, I’ve become very aware of the importance of my posture. When leaning your weight on the handles, your core must be engaged, your back straight, and your shoulders pulled back. If you want to benefit from these exercises, you have to pay attention to your position.
In her Bible study, “Discerning the Voice of God,” Priscilla Shirer says that the first and foremost thing we must do to hear the voice of God is to get ourselves into a “proactive stance of obedience”.* We must decide before we sense His leading that we will obey, even if we don’t think it will work!
We’ll never get it all right, but we rest in grace. It’s not about perfection, it’s about posture – you can never predict the profits of a heart positioned in a “But if you say so” direction!
*“Discerning The Voice of God” by Priscilla Shirer, p. 6