Barnett: The dumbest thing I've ever done

Barnett: The dumbest thing I've ever done

Like many others, I made a resolution to lose weight again this year. I've struggled with my weight over the last 10 years. I've tried all kinds of things to lose weight, and I'm going to confess to you the dumbest thing I've ever done to try to lose weight.

It’s OK if you laugh.

How many have ever seen the Ab-Belt advertised on TV late at night? The makers of the Ab-Belt promise all you have to do is wear this belt and you will lose belly fat. The weight and the fat will just fall off simply from wearing this belt.

Well, I was up really late one night, and in one of my more foolish acts, I ordered one of those belts. I didn’t lose any weight.

Every time I think about it now, I can hear Fred Sanford in my mind saying, “Ya big dummy! You can’t lose weight from wearing a belt.”

Really, the only way to lose weight naturally is through discipline and hard work. You discipline yourself to eat less and to eat healthy. You work hard at exercising regularly. You put in the time and the effort, and over time you lose the fat.

We laugh when people do stupid things like I did, like buying an Ab-Belt. Yet, many fall prey to hucksters who pitch their spiritual Ab-Belts, guaranteed to effortlessly solve all our problems. Whether it’s “an amazing new solution” to a health problem or “a miraculous new program to lose weight,” we’re often suckers for the promise of easy answers to tough problems.

Growing spiritually is a lot like losing weight. There is no way to grow spiritually except through hard work and discipline. The Apostle Paul wrote about this in one of his letters to a young man that he mentored named Timothy. He wrote, “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:7-10, NIV)

Paul begins this passage with a call not to fall for the lies that some were spreading. He calls them “myths and old wives' tales.” We could look at these lies like the Ab-Belt. Rather, Paul says to listen to the truth that he is teaching. He calls this truth, “a trustworthy saying.”

This truth is if you want to grow spiritually, then you must train yourself. You've got to put in the work! If you want to get in good physical shape, it is going to take discipline, effort and sacrifice. It's the same in the spiritual realm; if you want to be stronger in your faith, it will take discipline, effort and sacrifice.

Growing spiritually doesn't just happen by chance. You must be intentional about it. You have to actually train yourself. Just like if you want to be physically strong, you have to exercise physically, and if you want to be spiritually strong, you must exercise spiritually.

How do we exercise spiritually? The primary way of training that Paul has in mind is the word of God — the Bible. The way to not get deceived by the lies is to learn what is true spiritually. This means you've got to actually study God's word consistently, like going jogging every morning or going to the gym everyday.

It's the same with other spiritual disciplines. You've got to discipline yourself to pray. You've got to make the effort to be at church to learn and fellowship with those who will encourage you.

This also means we must practice. Like an athlete that practices a sport, we are to practice patience, humility, love and more. In large part, we learn by doing. Toddlers learn to walk by walking. Children learn to read by reading. Musicians become better musicians by playing music. Bodybuilders don't just read about lifting weights and growing muscle; they actually lift the weights and do the things necessary to grow bigger and stronger.

It's the same spiritually. You will not grow strong in your faith by simply studying and reading about faith. You will grow strong in your faith by practicing your faith. We will become more like Jesus only by actually doing what He has commanded us to do in the pages of Scripture.  

This is hard. It's easy for someone to say that they are a Christian. It's much more difficult to actually live a Christian life. It takes discipline and sacrifice to grow spiritually, but it is worth it!

This is what Paul is teaching. He says, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

A lot of people put a lot of time into being physically fit, but spiritual fitness is much more valuable! There is not one area of your life that will not benefit from spiritual growth.

When you grow spiritually it changes your outlook on life. It changes your attitude. Your priorities will be in the right place. Over time, you will be filled more and more with love and joy and peace and hope in the Lord. Your relationships will improve. Spiritual health has great value for this life!

Spiritual fitness also has great value for the life to come. The Bible speaks of rewards in heaven that will match how we have lived for Christ here on earth. If you grow strong spiritually, you not only reap the benefits in the present but for all of eternity.

Paul is teaching us that there is immense value in spiritual fitness, but it's hard to get spiritually fit. As hard as it is to be physically fit, it's even more difficult to be spiritually fit. It will take discipline and effort on your part, but it is worth the sacrifice.

Realize that if you want to grow spiritually, if you want more joy and peace in your heart, if you want better relationships, if you want to be more like Jesus, then you've got to work at it. There are no quick fixes. Spiritual Ab-Belts don't work.

Here's an idea. How about instead of losing weight and getting physically fit, make a resolution to get spiritually fit this year? Get a good study Bible, and devote yourself to learning God's word. Take time to pray. Find a good church and be there regularly. Seek to obey the teachings of Christ. Practice loving others, forgiving others, and serving God by helping others.

Don't wait! It’s time to start to training! The world is our gym. God's word is our coach. A better life here and now and eternal rewards are at stake!

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