As an exercise enthusiasts I have seen exercise plans beyond number in my 40 years. I can’t do some of the things I used to do when I was younger (at least not without paying dearly) so the number of options has shrunk. (Do you remember when you could abuse your body and fully recover in a matter of days?)
But how’s this for an exercise plan: Beat Yourself.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:27, “No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” I would be willing to bet that your workout log like mine does not include sets of self beating. The ESV foot note says the Greek is more like “pummel.” That would make for an interesting exercise DVD in the $5 bin at WalMart.
You would think that a guy like Paul who seemed to have people beating on him everywhere he went would not join the crowd himself.
But is it really all that strange? The Lord himself commanded that we gouge out our eye and cut off our hand if they should cause us to sin. Peter, the Lord’s constant companion for the years that the Lord walked the earth, wrote many years later in 1 Peter 4:1…
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.
No doubt the Lord’s chief suffering is seen at the cross, but think about what else Peter saw. Jesus often went without food, but never seemed to let it bother him. He taught and healed people all day, dismissed the crowds and stayed to pray late into the night. He walked everywhere, always driven by His Father’s will.
We on the other hand are, “starving to death” if we miss a single meal. We have elaborate systems to manage the people we want to be with and keep away the people we don’t. As for walking everywhere, I needn’t say a word.
The point is simply that Jesus was master of His body. So was the apostle Paul. The young Peter who slept rather than prayed in the garden with Jesus in his old age admonishes his readers that,
“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober -minded for the sake of your prayers. (1 Peter 4:7)
Rethinking Your Workout Plan
So as you and I rise from our pillow-top mattresses to make our push-button coffee and hustle off to the office in our shiny air conditioned boxes, we might do well to consider who has who. Are we masters of our bodies, or are they masters of us? Let’s be clear: asceticism will not make us the holy people God calls us to be. Walking in the Spirit produces holiness. But there is a practical side to walking with Christ. We may want to think further on what it means to “offer our bodies as a living sacrifice”. We may want to consider a little “pummeling” lest having preached to others, we find ourselves disqualified.