Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
— Hebrews 12:11
In yesterday’s Sparkling Gem, I encouraged you to be faithful to your commitment to lose weight this year. Today I want to take it one step further and exhort you to stick with your commitment to start exercising!
If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to begin an exercise program, I want to ask you:
- Have you begun to exercise regularly as you pledged to do in this new year?
- Do you find that you are already making excuses for not getting started?
- Are you already saying, “Tomorrow I’ll get started,” but tomorrow keeps getting further and further away? Do you find yourself already procrastinating in this area?
- The Lord is watching as you read this, so you might as well be honest about it. How are you doing at keeping this new commitment so far this year?
It is day four of this new year. If you’re still on track with your commitment to regularly exercise, well done! If you’re already faltering in that commitment after just four days, you need help getting started and maintaining that heartfelt commitment to the Lord.
- *[If you started reading this from your email, begin reading here.]
You may tell yourself, Well, I’ll start tomorrow. But the world is filled with people who put things off again and again! Are you going to let that be your story this year as well? Are you going to take your place among world-class procrastinators who never do what they promise about getting in shape and who therefore deteriorate physically year by year because they won’t take care of themselves? Remember, you need to stay strong physically not just for your own sake, but to be able to finish your spiritual race strong for Him!
So let me ask you: If you haven’t done anything yet to prove that you’re really serious about starting an exercise program, what are you going to do now to get back on track with your original commitment?
Many years ago, Denise and I decided we would start exercising regularly. Instead of purchasing Christmas gifts for one another as we normally did each year, we decided to put our money together to buy a computerized treadmill that could read blood pressure, heartbeat, and even tell us how many calories we were burning as we huffed and puffed each morning during our exercise regimen. But we felt that a treadmill was not enough, so we also purchased a stationary bicycle to be a part of our exercise equipment. The treadmill and bicycle were top-notch and cost a lot of money. Denise also wanted to work on her circulation, so we added a mini-trampoline to our collection of home equipment so she could jump up and down every morning to increase her blood circulation.
At first, we were faithful — walking, bicycling, and jumping every morning. But after a while, it got more and more difficult to get on that treadmill, bicycle, and mini-trampoline. Soon I found myself using only the treadmill — and for fewer and fewer minutes each day. It wasn’t long until all that equipment became silent pieces of unused machinery in our Moscow apartment.
One day I was sitting in my easy chair, thinking about how I needed to exercise, when I looked over at the treadmill and realized it had become a platform for boxes! Clothes on hangers were now hanging from the handlebars we used to hold on to so tightly as we briskly walked! I turned to the exercise bike just behind the comfortable chair where I was sitting. The seat we once sat on while we exercised was now piled high with stacks of study books. The mini-trampoline that Denise previously jumped on each morning to get her blood circulating was sitting upright on its side against the wall, collecting dust.
As I looked at it all from my big comfortable chair where I was sitting, I remembered how noble our intentions were when we spent the money to purchase all that equipment. But Denise and I had fallen into the same trap so many people fall into when they start exercising. The biggest part of our commitment was spending money to buy the equipment, but we had not been committed enough to consistently get on the equipment and exercise. Our good intentions were not enough. The only way we would ever take control of our flesh and submit it to this discipline of exercise was if we were committed and determined to do it, regardless of the cost.
I pondered all the exercise equipment Denise and I had purchased and how much I despised exercise, despite the fact that I so wanted to be in better physical shape. Then the Holy Spirit brought Hebrews 12:11,12 to my mind, and I began to feel very uncomfortable because it brought such conviction to my heart! The passage says, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyful, but grievous; nevertheless it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore, lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees.”
Although this passage is actually talking about the chastening of the Lord, the fact remains that the principle is applicable to the subject of exercise or any form of discipline. The word “chastening” in verse 11 is actually the Greek word paideia, which is taken from the Greek word pais, the word for a child. However, when it becomes the word paideia, it refers to child-rearing; child discipline; or the process of transforming an undisciplined child into a disciplined child. Eventually it became a word that referred to all forms of discipline. Therefore, it could refer to budgetary discipline, mental discipline, spiritual discipline, or physical discipline, such as exercise. Therefore, the verse actually could be translated, “Now no discipline for the present seemeth joyful.…”
Notice this verse says no discipline for the “present” seems joyful. The word “present” in Greek is the word paron, which literally means at this very moment. Let’s talk about this word before we proceed any further in the study of this verse.
Isn’t it true that when you’re trying to teach a child discipline, this is often the moment when wills collide and that innocent-looking little child can put up the fight of a lifetime! Isn’t it amazing to see how strongly a child can resist your instructions! At that moment, the conflict between parent and child may seem unending, but the truth is, it is fleeting and temporary. As tough as it can be to win the battle of wills and teach a child who’s in authority, it is necessary for the parent to endure that moment in order to establish who’s in charge and teach that child the need to obey and submit to parental authority.
However, this enduring of unpleasant moments isn’t only true of dealing with children; it can be applied to any area of flesh where discipline is needed. For instance, flesh despises and resists financial discipline because it has to say no to things it wants to purchase. Flesh hates dietary discipline because it has to push away the plate when it wants to overeat. And flesh loathes the physical discipline of exercise because it doesn’t want to be subjected to the “hardness” of such rigorous activity. It abhors the inconvenience of getting out of bed early, walking down the hallway to the exercise equipment, and feeling forced to do something physical. Flesh doesn’t want anyone forcing discipline on it. It’s like a child who must be taught to obey!
So as you begin the exercise program you pledged to do as a part of your New Year’s resolutions, know in advance that when it’s time to start exercising, your flesh will probably rant, rave, scream, resist, and recall everything you could be doing at that moment instead of exercising. It will try to escape by reminding you of other things that you need to do, people you need to call, other places you need to be, things you need to fix, and so on. The pain of discipline isn’t attractive to the flesh, so it may look for a way out of that momentary discomfort.
This is exactly why Hebrews 12:11 goes on to say, “…No chastening for the present seemeth joyous.…” The word “seemeth” is the Greek word dokeo, and in this verse, it could be translated as feels. The word “joyful” is the Greek word chara, and it means enjoyable, pleasant, or joyful in this context. Thus, the verse could be translated, “No discipline feels pleasant or enjoyable at the moment it is happening.…”
This verse goes on to say that, far from enjoyable, discipline at first feels “grievous.” In Greek, the word “grievous” is lupe, which depicts something painful, sorrowful, or something that is filled with anguish, torment, or agony. What a description of what I felt every time I walked to my own treadmill! My flesh did everything it could to resist it — and at times, forcing myself to get on that machine was pure agony! However, if I wanted to get in shape, I had to speak to my flesh and tell it to obey, whether it wanted to or not!
I have a suggestion for those moments when you fantasize about physical development and weight loss that requires no effort — or on those mornings when your flesh tries to escape exercise. It would be good for you to have a photograph placed in a visible place, such as on your refrigerator or the mirror you use each morning, that reminds you of what you’d like to look like as a result of dieting and exercising. It may be painful to get through the process of achieving that goal or vision, but the fruit of experiencing your desired outcome is worth it all!
That’s why the remainder of the verse says, “…Nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peace- able fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” The fruit of discipline and exercise is available to anyone who is willing to pay the price to obtain it. If you and I will be willing to endure the momentary pain, anguish, agony, and inconvenience of regularly exercising, it will pay off big time when you begin to look sharper and actually feel physically stronger.
Hebrews 12:11 could be interpreted:
“No discipline feels pleasant or enjoyable at the time it is happening. But later on, it produces long-awaited righteous fruit in the lives of those who are willing to undergo the discipline required to attain it.”
So when it’s time for you to head to the gym or get on your home exercise equipment, expect your flesh to put up a fight and look for an escape. But just determine beforehand that you’re going to steadfastly subdue and conquer that fleshly “pull” to give up on your commitment. You have to let the flesh know that it is your servant and you are the boss!
There is a price to pay for any success. You must decide how far you are willing to go to win the victory in the physical realm. What price are you willing to pay to look better and finish your race strong?
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I made a commitment to begin an exercise program. It is my will to keep this promise that I made both to myself and to You. I have been convicted for a long time that I need to take better care of myself, to get into good physical shape, and to honor this body that is the temple of the Holy Spirit. I thank You for the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit who will help me take charge of my flesh in order to carry out this commitment. I receive Your grace and mercies that are new every morning to help me to exercise control over my flesh. I yield to Your quickening power that will help me maintain this position of victory. Thank You for strengthening me to remain steadfast in this area of my life, each day from this day forward.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am in charge of my flesh and my flesh is not in charge of me. It has ruled and dominated me long enough! So starting today, with God’s help, I am taking charge and submitting my fleshly desires to the sanctifying power of the Spirit of God. My body is His temple, and I will treat it with respect. I will care for it; I will discipline and exercise it. I will do everything I can to make sure it looks good, feels strong, and is equipped to live a long and healthy life. God has a lot for me to do in this world! Therefore, I will get my body in shape so I can run this race and have a long and blessed life with a physical body that is free from the adverse effects of physical inactivity and lack of discipline.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to start exercising this year, how are you doing so far? Are you on track with your exercise program, or are you already losing ground in this commitment you made to yourself and to the Lord?
- What are you going to do to change your present course of action? What is your exercise program? Exactly what kind of plan have you developed to get moving toward your goal? Can you articulate what you want to achieve and the specific goals you’ve set for yourself, as well as the plan to attain them?
- If you have struggled in the past with self-discipline in this area of your life, is there someone who can exercise with you or at least check in with you every day so you can be held accountable in your new exercise regimen? Who can you bring into the process to help you stay on track in this way?