Our Personal Trainer

It was one of those hot Mississippi summer days. The temperature bounced around 100 and the heat index was way over that; the humidity at times was suffocating. The sun was about to go down and after a long day I thought it would be helpful if I went out on a bicycle ride before total darkness descended. I rode off into an area where I knew there was very little traffic, a lot of hills and valleys but no cars at that time of the day. I had been riding for about thirty minutes when way up ahead of me going up a hillside I saw some people pushing a car. My immediate thought was they had run out of gas or had a break down and that there were some people trying to help them push the car up the hill. I rode on in their direction and when I caught up with them, thinking I would offer my help, I slowed down enough and soon they stopped and it wasn’t anything like I thought it was.

I wrongly assumed it would be a bunch of young guys trying to push the car up the hill, but it wasn’t. It was six ladies, not teenagers but young women. It looked like all of them were about to drop from exhaustion and I asked them if I could help. They were so tired they couldn’t speak, but they shook their heads and one of them gasping for air said, “He’s making us push the car.” I looked over and there was a man in the car who then climbed out and one of the ladies said, “And we pay him to make us do this.” At that point the man said, “I’m a personal trainer.” I said, “You have got to be kidding.” No. Not far from them was his place, but this was one of the unique, tough workouts that he gave these obviously in shape and strong women.

The man who was providing steering for the car as the ladies pushed it up hill asked me if I would like to ride with him. I said, “No, I don’t think so.” Then he cracked the whip and said, “Alright, ladies, let’s get moving,” and they started pushing again to get to the top of the hill. I turned around and rode downhill shaking my head as I thought about what I had just seen and heard and the incredible commitment and energy that it takes to be out on an almost 100 degree day paying someone to push a car uphill so you could feel, look, and be better. Now in all fairness, the personal trainer who was looking like he was just loafing along sitting in the car. When he got out of the car, it was obvious he was in great physical shape and was, with a big smile and positive words, encouraging them to press forward, too.

It takes more than sitting in an easy chair sipping lemonade in the air conditioning to be in good physical condition or, may I add, in any other good condition either. I thought about how concerned Jesus was to make sure that we understood that he would not leave us alone, but that we would have a personal trainer in our spiritual lives, and our walk with him and our efforts to serve him would always be there and always give us his encouragement and guidance. In fact, just before he left, Jesus told his disciples that he would not leave them without help. The Spirit of God would be with them, the comforter, the encourager, the lifter-upper. In John 14:16-17 Jesus told them, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”

Our ever present personal trainer to walk with us sometimes takes us into experiences and events that we don’t particularly want and maybe the weather’s too hot; he is there. Think about it, the personal trainer with those ladies, and the one who comes alongside of us in our walk with Jesus, helps us. He encourages us to keep on when we want to quit. He helps us to move forward in the right direction when we could get in a ditch. He helps us to understand that we may not see it or enjoy it at the moment, what we’re going through is ultimately best. He helps us.

But in addition I would point out he hurts us. I do not mean that he is mean to us or inflicts pain on us, but sometimes the things that he is leading us through can be so difficult, even painful, that we may wonder what good is this doing, but so often in all of life’s journey, and especially in our spiritual life, there are things that are touched with adversity and even affliction, struggle and grief, that God uses to bring about good in us. We may be stronger because of it. Our character may be better refined because of it. Our understanding of the needs of others may be sharpened. Clearly, God is not wanting to hurt his children but he does want us to grow, expand, enlarge, be stronger, to face life and the work that he has set before us and sometimes it hurts.

Ultimately, what we may be going through leads us to the top of the hill to have new horizons in life. Though it may not be the last hill that you push ahead to get to the top, you come to see better and further than ever before, and then the Lord says “I’ve got another horizon I want to show you.” Sometimes as we press forward in our walk with the Lord, the vision, the horizon he wants us to look at is not unlike the one he said to his disciples, “Behold, I say unto you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35). That view of a lost world, that incredible horizon, helps us to see the nations and the people within those nations, dying without any sense of the understanding of the good news of the Gospel that Jesus loves them.

Sometimes the Lord tries to lead us to see new horizons, not way out there, but maybe within our own hearts. While it may be difficult to struggle with getting your arms around reaching a world for Christ, it may be equally difficult to get your arms around simply doing what God has called you to do, a new horizon in your own personal decision making. Though I’ve never had a personal trainer, I’ve known some folks who did, and I’ve known some folks who were trainers. They always seemed to be pushing folks beyond where they were. You can go faster. You can be stronger. You can do more repetitions. On and on there are no limits. Well, I can tell you for sure, you can spend a lifetime being guided by the Holy Spirit and you will never, ever reach the end of the road in the development that he is offering to you.

So with his help and even with his hurts, look to his horizon and keep on pushing. He’s got new things for you just ahead.

Jim Futral
Executive Director-Treasurer