Harold and I walk into an expansive fitness center. “Wow,” we say. Large signs – “Performance”, “Motivate”, “Achieve” – hang from the walls. Banners list the benefits of connecting with a personal trainer. On a wall-TV, experts recommend best routines for this “fitness journey.” My head swivels right to left and back to center.
One muscular manager steps out from behind the front desk and hands me a schedule of classes. He then confidently motions us to walk with him around the facilities. He proudly points out rows of earnest exercisers, every level, every age. I see a couple men pass each other and pause to talk. The manager pulls my attention back with his comments. “When you come in, you know what to expect. We’ll supply everything you need to accomplish your goals. Assessments. Group fitness classes…” As we walk past floor-to-ceiling glass, we see a group of glistening women stepping in synch. Music is pumping, and the coach shouts, “Hey, I didn’t design this to be easy. But it’s so worth it!” Our tour guide tells us, “Instructors will give you everything possible for the best outcome.” We next walk past a snack-bar – One man is gulping down an energy drink, and he nods at us. Our tour guide says, “We recommend these health drinks too. And have I mentioned our website and podcasts? Knowledge builds motivation, you know.” Okay, I’m impressed. Harold’s grinning and nodding. The manager next pulls out gym membership papers and hands Harold a pen…
But already my mind has made a jump: I’m seeing an exciting comparison – and contrast – with Fellowship Community Church. Okay, I’m not just referring to our “Common Grounds” coffee area, though we like to gather and refresh there too. I’m not focusing on the “HUB” in the foyer, though our HUB is also a great place to get schedules and information on upcoming events. I’m thinking of that Bible verse, “Train yourself in godliness.” At Fellowship we all are on a fitness journey of the spiritual kind. We focus on different words here: “Hope in Christ”, “Christ is all and in all”, “In our weakness He is strong!” I glance at the gym’s big wall signs again.
As Harold and I drive home (having just become members!), I mention the contrast between FCC and that fitness center. He nods, “Yeah, that place has lots of good equipment, but however great the facilities, most people lose motivation…” In spiritual training, we have huge benefits. Our Personal Trainer, Jesus Christ Himself, lives in us! He’s strengthening, coaching, and motivating us, so that we can “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
At FCC, we come together with a purpose: We want to know Christ! So we check in with each other. We ask each other, “How’s it going this week? Persevering?” Hey, we’re real. We have struggles, but we press on. To slightly paraphrase another Bible verse, we’re “not setting aside the grace of God, for if fitness could be gained through our own efforts, Christ died for nothing!” Instead, one prophet of long ago, Isaiah, explained it, “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” And another preacher named Paul described our tough-mudder training, “This momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory for beyond all comparison…”
Like that gym does, FCC offers help for our individual needs – from “Common Life” daily readings, to the library/resource center, to the website and emails with helpful blogs. Of course, FCC also urges us to join a community for some group fitness – perhaps Celebrate Recovery, or TEAM prayer breakfasts for men, or women’s “If” discussion tables, or Fellowship Kids.
Our group leaders (think, spiritual fitness instructors) want to give everything possible for developing strong spiritual “muscles”. We’re not “running aimlessly”, as Paul the preacher once described it. We may not be quite as in synch as that exercise class was, but we’re “striving together as one for the faith of the gospel”. We pray God’s Word together, so that we’ll “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” We depend on our Coach, Jesus Himself, so we can “strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in us.” Like that other coach was shouting to her sweaty class, “It’s worth it!’, Pastor Mark too shouts, “In all these things we’re more than conquerors!”
God’s Word says, We’re “strengthened with all power according to His glorious might…” So, like the gym sign said: “Just. Keep. Working.”
– Shawne Ebersole