By Pastor Ed Collins
I just bought my first kettlebell – heard all the hype so I figured I’d dive in. I didn’t even know what one looked like until recently. They look like something from the stone ages – a cast-iron ball with a handle…reminds me of something that might be used by those kilt-wearing pole-thrower dudes? Dunno.
Weightlifting is ok, but one of my gripes with traditional weightlifting is the lack of full body engagement. I, for one, don’t have hours every day to spend in a gym isolating every muscle. So, whenever possible, I always opt for workouts that involve multiple muscle groups.
So, I took my shiny new kettlebell and found some basic workouts on Youtube. Squats, lunges, presses, swings, you name it! I can already tell that these exercises will build “real” strength.
I’ve found there are two kinds of strength: gym strength and real strength.These are not widely accepted terms so let me explain with an example.
When I was younger, I used to work construction. A lot of the younger guys would be all cut up, running around topless, flaunting their beach bodies (myself included :o). Many were seasonal workers. They all knew how much the other guys could bench-press in the gym and such. Most of the older guys were carrying around pot-bellies of various sizes, hardly anything you’d see on the cover of GQ magazine – lol. None of the latter group ever talked about how much weight they could lift in the gym. I don’t think they really cared.
Oddly, it wasn’t always the guys with the gym-borne beach bodies that could actually lift and maneuver the greatest amount of weight on the job. Ever carried a bundle or two of roofing shingles up a two-story ladder? It was often the seasoned construction workers that proved to be the most durable and possessed the greater endurance.
That’s what I mean by two kinds of strength. What I’m finding out is that my kettlebell workouts develop real strength because they demand your whole body to engage.
There are spiritual strength training analogies here, too.
For example, I know many people who have a lot of scripture memorized, doctrines, too. Some are like the aforementioned beach bodies, puffed up, comparing themselves to one another, flexing their vocabularies and such. Then I know of folks that have been “to hell and back in a hand basket”, trusted in the Lord on that journey, exercised every last ounce of spiritual muscle they had, and now possess real spiritual strength. They may not look or sound that impressive, but they are the warriors.
Life rarely isolates a single muscle. It doesn’t say, “Ok, sit right here in this chair and curl this bar while I support your elbows.” Not at all, life typically throws a medicine ball from some random, awkward direction, usually when you’re already off-balance, and says, “catch this and don’t drop it or else!”
The first scenario is manufactured to show off “gym strength”; whereas, the second is designed to show off “real strength”. If you possess real spiritual strength, all the little stabilizer muscles work in unison with the larger muscles to coordinate a response that keeps you balanced.
“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)
That phrase in 1 Peter 1:7, “the proof of your faith”, reveals a prominent feature of the spiritual life. The emphasis is on the “proof“. In order for faith to prove itself, you must exercise it. You must trust in it, His gift to you. This implies that you put it to work in your life. Let it deliver you time and again so that your confidence grows. THAT is where “real” strength comes from, NOT just from learning the Word of God, but rather learning and APPLYING what you’ve learned to life.
“He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” (Isaiah 40:29-31)
Strength training is critical to success in the spiritual life. Life is very adept at revealing to us whether or not we possess “gym” strength or “real” strength. Don’t be afraid to try new exercises, to take risks, to put the onus of deliverance upon the Lord’s shoulders. That’s faith.
“Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2)
Eat well. Exercise well. Seek real strength.