Last January, while getting dressed in a crowded gym locker room, one of those insanely ripped veiny guys with the muscle shirts mocked those of us who were trying to live up to our new year’s resolutions. He quipped, “Thankfully, most of you guys will be gone by February.” I was annoyed and I would’ve said something to him if not for the fact that he was right (and he was ripped). Like many people, the month of January is when I conjure up the willpower to walk into the gym again for the first time in a while. And like a lot of people, it’s a struggle to keep walking back into that same gym.
So what determines whether a person sticks with a workout regimen or falls victim to the February fitness fade? The answer isn’t a matter of willpower. Believe or not, it’s actually a matter of belief. What you believe determines what you will do. Don’t believe me? Let me show you.
The Physical Struggle
As I sit on my La-Z-Boy, there are two competing desires waging a battle within me. On one side, there is the desire to get into shape along with its long-term benefits. And on the other side, there is the desire to avoid the short-term pain and discomfort that comes with moving heavy objects. At that moment of decision, what I believe determines what I will do. When I choose to skip the gym and drive to Taco Bell instead, there has been an unspoken conversation that has occurred within me:
“I should really go to the gym because I want to get into shape. But I hate the grueling pain of weight-lifting and Taco Bell tastes so good.”
And there you have it. For a brief moment, I believed the lie that the long-term pleasure of a gym-fit body was not as gratifying as the short-term pleasure of sloth. My belief determined my actions. In life, it’s not until a person is fully convinced that the long-term pleasure of a fit physique is worth the pain that they ever conquer the fleeting pleasure of a comfortable chair.
The Spiritual Struggle
If it’s true that belief determines actions at a physical level, this is most certainly true at a spiritual level as well. How many times have we resolved to pray more, read more, and seek God more? How many times have we promised God to never commit that secret sin again? But by the time February comes around, we are still the same slothful sinner with the same lazy spiritual habits, gorging our souls on a steady diet of TV or social media. Do not believe the lie that your problem is one of weak willpower. It most certainly is not. Your problem and mine is our unbelief.
Belief in the Pleasures of God
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. – Psalm 16:11
For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. – Psalm 107:9
The Bible is full of promises that fellowship with God is the maximum pleasure we can experience on earth. Jesus goes as far as to say that he Himself is all-satisfying to our pleasure-hungry souls (John 6:35).
Ultimately, the actions we take in 2017 regarding our relationship with God (like reading and praying more) will hinge on whether we believe in the promises of the pleasures of God or whether we believe in the short-term and soul-destroying pleasures of the flesh.
Come to think of it, I’ve never heard any of those gym-fit people say, “I wish I had never achieved the discipline to work out, it would have been much better to relax.” They don’t say that because they have become convinced that real pleasure can’t be found in a La-Z-Boy lifestyle. Likewise, when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st 2017, you most certainly will not be saying, “I wish I had binged on more TV, Sports and Facebook rather than grow in relationship with Christ.” You will have realized the pleasure of knowing Him who has had made you for Himself.