“There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction.” Winston Churchill
Somewhere along the way last year, after turning 50 and getting on the scales to see I weighed more than ever in my natural life, I made a choice. I chose to stop thinking things like, “Well, after all, you are 50, and you have an artificial hip, and you know, you have a desk job.” I had all these reasons to do nothing. Oh, and there was the spiritual one: too many people are too obsessed with appearance, which is really not spiritual. Therefore, working out and getting in shape surely could be done only to please myself, right?
Then I had another thought.
There are already enough fat preachers in the USA.
I did not really need to add to that number. The Bible actually does value discipline (read the Proverbs), and does not dichotomize one’s spiritual life from our bodies. Further, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. No energy, worn out constantly, etc. And finally, I began to think of being 70 and being so decrepit I would be of no use for the Kingdom. My trajectory had to change.
I was finally ready for real change. Been there?
I am convinced when it is time to change in a way that costs us, three things must happen. First, we need to understand rationally the need to change. I thought about the long-term consequences of the trajectory I was on physically. Still, we need more than that. Information alone does not lead to transformation. Smokers who know they need to quit normally do not, for instance. Just because a believer knows he or she should witness simply will not automatically lead to an evangelistic lifestyle. But we do need such information.
Second, to change when change is hard, we need a compelling vision. We need to see the great impact such a change would make, a glimpse of the future, a ray of hope. When the pain of change is less than the pain of the status quo, we will change. But I would argue we still need one thing more.
We need short term wins to keep the vision alive.
Peter knew intellectually that the gospel was for all. Yet when it came to Gentiles, he needed a compelling vision to see clearly they could receive the same gospel the Jews received. He got it, a real vision in fact, as we read in Acts 10. Rationally, he knew the Great Commission was for all. Then he received a compelling vision that he should not consider unclean those God considered clean. But then, he had a short term win in the form of Cornelius, a Gentile Peter led to Christ.
I would submit when it comes to radical change we need the same. And that is where P90X comes into my story. I had started exercising. I had lost some weight, the easiest pounds. But I knew I needed something more. Further, I had come to the place where I pretty much knew somewhat how to preach a sermon, teach a class, write a book, and so on. But I knew I needed a challenge, something that would kick my tail.
And along came P90X, the most intense, sweat-inducing, body-pushing, tail-kicking workout I had seen since August two-a-days in high school football in Alabama. I knew I needed to change. I saw a compelling vision that if I got in shape, it would give me a much greater ability to minister effectively in my best years of influence (post 50). And P90X gave me the ability to have a short term win.
Soon is not a time. Soon is not a number. I needed a short-term confidence builder. P90X lasts 90 days. I can do that, I thought. So I did.
Okay, the first several weeks were brutal. I could not actually do all the workouts until about week 9. I had to skip plyometrics for a while because of my fake hip. So, I have actually not done the whole thing yet. I am still going. But during the 90 days what happened (no, I am not showing pictures!)?
I lost another 12 pounds on top of the “easier” 16-18 I had lost. I weigh less than I have in at least 15 years. It will take more than 90 days to fix years of poor eating and little exercise. But I am off to a pretty awesome start thanks to P90X.
I feel better than I have in many years.
My artificial hip is changed. I can jump now. My daughter Hannah commented recently that she saw me jump for the first time she can remember (she is 17). I can preach all day now and my hip does not ache like it has for more than a decade.
I have renewed confidence in my ability to be disciplined, which affects other areas: spiritually for instance. I had become remarkably lazy. When we become lazy, we become increasingly self-centered as well.
I have encouraged others in the journey, and they have certainly done the same for me. In fact, I am doing a class this fall at Southeastern (not for credit!) using Power90, which is one step below P90X and is a great regimen. Students take note.
I am greatly encouraged to be disciplined in others areas, including those much more important than physical matters. I have thought long and hard about my travel schedule, my local church, and more than any, my family, followed by my students. This fall I will be making some sweeping changes in these areas thanks in no small part to the ability to make such changes physically.
I have more motivation and conviction regarding change in the Western church, and in particular my own tradition the SBC. We as a convention look in my opinion a lot like I did six months ago: a bit flabby, a bit satisfied, in need of refocusing and in desperate need of discipline about things that matter. If only there were a P90X for a denomination. Well, maybe there is, a GCRTF…
More than anything, I have found a way to continue to work to be in shape for the rest of my life. My way of thinking about food has changed. My self-confidence is greater. I now want to lose another 12-14 pounds, which would mean I would weight less than I have since my 30s!
Beyond all that, I love the fact that I took on a challenge and did not fail at it. I have too many times started something only to fail in finishing well. I want that not to be said of my life. Or of my family, my students, my seminary, or my convention.
I challenge you: in some area of your life where you KNOW you must change, consider this:
-Think rationally about what and how you should change. Get the facts.
-Ask God for a compelling vision to show you the remarkable impact of such change.
-Set a short-term win before you. Tell others for accountability (I started a P90X Facebook group for accountability, plus my son Josh did it which pushed me as well). Set a specific time. And be encouraged.
I can tell you now, every ounce of sweat was worth it. And it will be for you as well.