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July 16, 2018

FIT PROJECT – WEEK 10

Grace matters most

I can recall the first bone I ever broke in my body. I was working as a front-end loader operator at a small, family-owned rock quarry in San Diego, California. I was young and ambitious, wanting to show an exemplary work ethic by accomplishing my tasks with speed and intensity as the Marines had instilled in me. One morning, while trying to get our operation ahead of schedule, I was moving faster than normal, unknowingly sacrificing safety awareness. While pushing through a mound of crushed rock, I found some rather large debris I knew could potentially flatten a tire or cause foreign object damage to our equipment, so I jumped down off the loader to manually pick it up.

Still trying to finish my duties early in impressive fashion, I quickly climbed back into the cab of my loader and sat in the driver’s seat. Without paying attention, I reached over to shut the door. But instead of grabbing the handle to close it, I grabbed the sharp metal locking mechanism that slides forward as the door slams shut. Instantly, this heavy-duty bar crushed right through my finger, cutting through the bone, yet somehow leaving my skin intact. Blood immediately spilled out as my fingernail dangled off the tip. It was gross. I screamed louder than someone being killed in a horror flick.

My supervisor hurriedly came to me as I somehow managed to get to the ground with one hand. To him, it was obvious something was broken, so we drove straight to the emergency room. I’ll never forget the ride to the hospital, for two reasons. One, there is nothing quite like the traumatizing distress of the pain of a broken bone. And two, in that moment, something spiritual happened. As a Christian man and a forgiven sinner, I began to appreciate and understand more about the physical pain that Jesus endured on the cross. In my shock and in tears, God spoke to me about what He and His son have suffered as a result of my waywardness away from my maker.

 Out of Grace God Speaks

I went from conjuring up curse words in this annoying situation, asking myself Why me? to seeing the image of a bloody, broken savior with nails in His hands and feet and asking, Why Him? It was obvious that I didn’t feel I deserved this baneful mishap, but before I could blame God, the Holy Spirit reminded me to trust in the master’s plan for my body and life. It was sad how quickly I lost sight of this beautiful truth—that God is watching over me. How shallow my faith appeared to be in the temptation to grumble and complain.

I was ready to hold God responsible, not only for my broken finger, but for the severe inconvenience and the major setback to my upcoming plans and schedule. I knew the healing process would take months, which meant unwanted time off from work and no pay. Bills would soon pile up, and I became overwhelmed with anxiety thinking about my finances. Yet somehow, Jesus was able to calm my heart, lessen my worry, and take away my fear.

With my eyes closed tightly through the pain and the tears, I could see Jesus with His crown of thorns, carrying His heavy wooden cross to His death, determined to set me free from all my future fear and doubt. With my ears tuned in to take heed of my lord and savior, I could hear His gracious words echoing in my mind:

Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.  —Luke 23:34

I didn’t think God was inflicting pain on me to teach me a lesson, but I do believe that He revealed to me what I had been seeking—a deeper understanding of what being a recipient of His mercy actually means. I lacked an amazement for His grace. Grace had become a loose term that was easy to sing about in church but so easy to take for granted the rest of the time. In that moment of pain and discomfort, the Holy Spirit spoke to me about the unsurpassed longsuffering nature of God and the incomparable pain Jesus suffered on our behalf.

God began to suffer the day we chose to disobey Him, at the fall of humankind documented and described in Genesis chapter three of the Bible. So much can be said about the pain and grief we’ve caused God by taking a closer look at that passage and seeing the utter misuse of the human body. Digging more deeply into its tragic nature helps us see the regrettable offense to God, but it also provides answers to many of life’s questions about what really happened at the fall and the implications of it.

God Revives through Grace

Before sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, God revealed Himself as magnificent creator and author of life. He sustains life by His power over all things through His provision of all things and in His perfect love for all things as the giver of all things. Since we were made in the image of God, we share His essential characteristics—the ability to make decisions, the power of choice, and the desire to love. But afterthe fall of humankind, God’s character was further revealed as gracious and just. Understanding the properties of God’s justice and God’s grace is a big part of pursuing health and fitness. It teaches us to start back at square one with our situation at its worst.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins…. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us… made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.  —Eph. 2:1–5

 Grace is a fundamental attribute of our Christian walk. Grace empowers us to be kind, gentle, humble, and patient. Jesus, who lived and died for us, is the embodiment of grace. Without Him, we have no forgiveness. Without forgiveness, there is no salvation. Without salvation, everything we aspire to—success, health, and even love—is meaningless in the sense that it produces a short-lived effect. But life infused by saving grace through faith restores our souls. Combine that with fitness infused by faith, and we acquire the means to restore our bodies and press on in the hard work of being followers of Christ, spreading God’s grace and having a timeless impact on the lives of others.

Perfect Grace Necessitates Perfect Justice

It’s important to know that while mercy and grace are attributes of God that have been transferred to us, so also is the attribute of justice.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  —John 3:16,18

Justice is another characteristic that resulted in our being made in God’s image. That is a concept we are very familiar with in our world today. For example, whenever a heinous crime is committed, there is a demand from society to condemn it and a response by law enforcement to correct it. We are a people of justice. As often as we can, we try to make all wrongs right and preserve proper order in a humanitarian way. This attribute we get from God, who established perfect peace. That means all of our efforts to live civilly, with virtue and goodwill, have God’s fingerprints all over them.

God has instilled in us a desire to protect and serve each other. We value life and the lives of others, so we put laws in place to ensure our safety. When those laws are broken, there are consequences that have to be dealt with. In some states, the courts may impose capital punishment on murderers. This idea of retribution has its origin in God, who is our judge.

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.  —Rom. 16:20

The balance of God’s grace is His perfectly enforced justice. Justice keeps God from being a pushover. Sustaining perfect victory over all things is one of the main attributes of being almighty. But in order for God to be perfectly victorious, someone or something has to lose out. In this case, it is Satan, the archenemy of God. He is the perpetrator of original sin, the instigator of all idleness and everything that is gluttonous and slothful. Justice puts an end to self-indulgence. It says no to all the things that are killing our bodies and says yes to everything that is life-giving.

 God Gives Grace to the Undeserved

Because God is forever holy, He must also be forever just. He must deal with sin in a way that ensures He is forever victorious over it. Like our form of punishing the guilty, God’s law says:

 [T]he wages of sin is death. —Rom. 6:23

But God showed mercy and grace by allowing Jesus to die on the cross in our place so those who have faith in Him can be released from the just consequences.

[B]ut the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Rom. 6:23

The anatomy of grace came into being the moment God chose not to exercise capital punishment on Adam and Eve when they disobeyed Him. In their fear and shame, they stood before God, their judge, naked and afraid. God could have rightfully executed them for their lawlessness, but in His graciousness, He decided to make amends for their sins by sacrificing an animal and clothing them with its skin. That represented the very first act of pardon through immolated bloodshed.

And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. —Gen. 3:21

What amazing grace! But the damage had been done. Through their disobedience, our skin would now wrinkle and blemish over time. Our eyesight and hearing would now slowly fade, our hair would eventually lose its color and fall out, and so would our teeth. Our youth would only last so long before old age took over and our bones became frail as our ability to strengthen our bodies gradually dissipated. Our metabolisms would inevitably slow down, and our hearts would one day give out.

Be Sanctified in Good Health

When we make an effort to be as healthy as possible, we take a godly stance in opposition to the deteriorating effect that original sin has left on our bodies. When we eat and drink what is both lawful and helpful, we communicate to God our desire to bodily participate in being set apart and to be kept fit for every good work. This was the prayer of Jesus:

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. —John 17:17–19

It was also the prayer of Paul the apostle:

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless. —1 Thess. 5:23

And it was the prayer of John the apostle:

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. —3John 1:2

A lot of us are under the impression that God only helps us in spiritual matters, so we rely on secular methods for fitness and are in danger of pursuing health the wrong way. We apply minimal effort to the pursuit of holiness and focus more on how we look on a cruise, by the lake, or at the beach. That is actually quite common, and most of us can relate to it. Our concern is focused more on how we look in bikinis and board shorts, yoga pants, and muscle shirts. But where are these desires coming from? Is being healthy and having a good-looking body motivated by self-fulfillment? Each of us must examine our motivation for getting fit and in shape.

I had to learn that fitness is so much more than looking good and feeling good. I thought it was about impressing each other with our attractive physiques or getting the attention and approval of others. I’d spend hours in the gym trying to impress people. I was desperately seeking acceptance, rank, and stature. I craved everyone’s likes, head turns, and second looks. What that revealed was an obsession over what people thought of me and an absence of enjoyment in what God thought of me.

Attain Fitness through God’s Grace

We ought to be so in love with the idea of being created in the image of God that we scripturally nourish and care for our bodies. The strength of Christ and what He accomplished with Hisbody fits perfectly at the forefront of our minds if we’ll only let it. The power of His name is more than enough to bulldoze our laziness, weakness, and self-inflicted obesity. Excessive weight gain, anorexia, and bad health in general can quickly paralyze and shackle us. In the name of Jesus, who is grace, we can break free and overcome all hindrances that prevent us from being the light of Christ.

None of us are going to be able to do that perfectly. But because of God’s grace, all of us should strive for perfection in honor and acclaim for everything He has done. In the Bible, we find that grace is one of the most prevalent hallmarks of God’s character and extends immeasurably to all His people. Grace was upon Noah during the flood, a catastrophic event in which God physically protected Noah and his family in the ark God commanded him to build.

Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation…For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” —Gen. 7:1,4

Grace was upon the people of Israel when God rescued them out of slavery in Egypt and upon Moses in the wilderness as he interceded for God’s people who were prone to unhealthily rebel and wander from the faith.

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.” —Exod. 34:6–7

Grace was given to a lame beggar through the apostle Peter in the early days of the church. Grace made him physically strong enough to walk and jump for joy at the sight of this miraculous healing.

But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk…walking and leaping and praising God. —Acts 3:6–9

Peter went on to testify that the author of life, Jesus, is the only one who can rightly, wholly, and irreproachably restore our bodies.

And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. —Acts 3:16

God’s Grace Strengthens Our Bodies

The message of Jesus was that God’s grace is upon all humans. It is outstretched beyond borders, for all races of people, regardless of their past or present. Jesus’s death on the cross represents God’s ultimate sacrifice, the pinnacle of His immeasurable grace.

In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight…according to his purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. —Eph. 1:7–10

This grace was poured out to revive our souls and unify our bodies to Him. Our hearts and minds are now His. Our hands and feet belong to God, along with our voices, our eyes, our stomachs, our arms, and our legs. Every part of us has been joined and connected to Him. So this grace is available to us to provide power in our feeble conditions, being overcome by sinful cravings. When we let ourselves go, God’s grace is sufficient enough to get us back on course. When we pack on the pounds in a way that’s unspiritual, God’s grace is made ready to motivate us for change.

Pursuing fitness through the grace of God is going to look different for everybody. It will reflect whatever His calling is for each of our lives. It will be determined through His redemptive process, through our circumstances, and through whatever He requires in equipping us for every good work. Some of us will be gifted athletes for the glory of God, others desk jockeys for the glory of God.

Some will be criminal lawyers seeking justice in the name of Christ, others doctors healing in the name of Christ. Some might be praying for God to help them build muscles, others the will and power to conquer obesity. We can presume many are going to be working hard toward lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, others battling depression and eating disorders.

The main thing to remember is that the issue doesn’t start with the unhappiness that strikes us or the disappointment that sets in when looking at our bodies in the mirror. The issue starts with our attitude and condition before God. There is no one who cares more about mind, body, and soul than God. He created us, and He wants to see us healthy in every way.

If we believe in Him who is almighty, then there is no limit to what He can provide for us. No matter how overweight we are, how weak we’ve become, or how hopeless it may seem, we are never beyond His redemptive reach. With confidence, we should be able to look ourselves in the mirror and say, By God’s grace, I can do this!

Fitness requires hard work, commitment, and devotion. There is no one more hard working, more faithful, and more devoted than God. There has been no greater source of empowerment, no more magnificent proxy or stout instructor than the Holy Spirit Himself.

Fitness requires strength, endurance, and perseverance. There is no one stronger than Jesus Christ. No one has ever gained from pain more than Him, nor has anyone knuckled down in such selfless, flawless fashion to carry out God’s uncanny tasks and miraculous handiwork.  Jesus is the embodiment of grace. So, if grace matters most, then Jesus matters most. To Him be glory and honor. Amen

Love you guys,

Everett

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