‘No pain. No Gain.’ Is simply not true! Many times, in my personal life and pastoral ministry I have experience and seen pain, that has not led to gain. This is in part due to the deception called event-mindedness which says that just experiencing pressure and pain will lead to gain. It will not!
Some learnt wisdom from Arnie –
“The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.” Arnold Schwarzenegger
“The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow,” Boom!
It’s not just experiencing the pain that leads to gain, it is what we do within the pain, that leads to growth. Not just physical muscle but mental, emotional and spiritual muscle. As we push, rep-eatedly, against the weight we submit to a process and resist the cry of our emotions to quit and go back to comfort!
The word for suffering in Roms 5:3 is pressure and the writer says that pressure produces perseverance, perseverance character and character hope, which does not disappoint because it is attached to the love Father has already poured into our hearts, who we be! On the surface, this scripture seems to support event-mindedness. However, the best interpreter of scripture is scripture. So, let’s bring James 1:2-4 alongside, to build the complete thought –
“consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials [pressure] of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Because you know that testing [pressure] develops perseverance! Do we know this? As a revelation and a principle, do we get this? These verses are a great synopsis of what an event leads to, which is always an invitation to work a process. So, the pressure comes [event] and we have an opportunity to develop [process word] perseverance. We take this invite and our first event of preserving, begins the much-needed process of becoming mature and complete.
No pain. No Gain, is a deception, mostly borne out of our emotions which are kick in when the going gets tough.
What if the Father has designed events that will trigger a much-needed process, so that our potential grows and meets the demand we are facing. The bridge between our potential and the problem is called pressure. What we do, rep-peatedly in this pressure is who we become!
“Because we know that…….
Perhaps, some of the pain and the pressure we are experiencing at the moment, has been purposely factored in by the Father? Maybe, this is His version of gym time? A divinely inspired opportunity to enter that area of pain that will develop us into champions?
All I know is this – life will bring pressure! Jesus, who I trust the most said so –
“In this world, you will have trouble [word is pressure] but take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jn 16:33
There are two emphatics in this verse: you will have and I have overcome! And there is one command: take heart which to paraphrase means locate and lock onto your courage. Courage is acting in the face of fear. Jesus is asking us for something in the face of fear; to be courageous and act! Not turn and run! For those who stay and face the pressure, He promises overcoming power. Cf Roms 8:37; Eph 6:10 & Phil 4:13
I am learning to use, and I’m enjoying, lose weights in my home gym. But one of the vital lessons is knowing the signs when you are in that area of pain where if I push through and do two more reps, I will gain what I set out to do: develop muscle and strength.
I am not there yet – turning my bay window [stomach] into Baywatch!
But I am on the bridge called pressure and I know what to do and what lies ahead is a ‘enduring walk of faith’ and I will inherit what’s on the other side of the bridge. See Hebs 6:12
Disciple means disciplined learner and is a definition and dynamic Jesus gives to all who return to the Father through him. It’s also a title that will not be revoked, unless we choose, until we exit life and enter eternal life.
Therefore, we are lifelong learners whose only constant is change!
The biblical word for change is transformation, meaning transform or transfigure and appears only four times. Twice concerning Christ appearance on the mount of transfiguration. See Matt 17:2. And the transformation of the believer into the likeness of Christ, through the renewing of their minds. See 2 cor 3:18 & Roms 12:2.
One of the core changes that needs to happened to all disciples of Christ can be seen in the changing of the name, by Jesus, of Peter. Before Jesus re-named him, he was Simon, meaning reed-like. Peter means rock. His previous name infers he swayed and his latter name infers being solid. The name change was a outworking of an invisible truth – Peter’s substance had transformed. He appeared the same but in his words and actions, he was different. These words and actions would take time to fully develop, he would go on to deny his master, but when Jesus said He was now ‘Rocky.’ He was!
The context of this re-naming is very important –Peter had just received revelation directly from the Father regarding who Jesus was. Immediately, Simon is given a new name and his substance is changed. This dynamic is clearly highlighted in John 1:12 –
to “all who received Him (Jesus, the Word) to those who believe in name (work) he gave them power to become children of God!”
Formulaically – receive + believe = become.
The core of Simon was changed by receiving and believing the released Word of God, and so, he went from being easily swayed to becoming rocky. The biblical word which is also an ongoing process, for this, is stable!
Dynamically, stable means established and strengthen, something or someone, who has become and is becoming. They are fixed and becoming firm, established and strengthen! These works are within a person’s life and primarily refer to the state and condition of their faith and their mind! Col 2:5&23; 2 Pet 3:17
In these verses, the word stability and steadfast are being used and the pictures behind them are – to make stable, place firmly, set fast, fix, a firm foundation. These refer to the state and quality of the heart and mind of the believer, and they are also a litany of what the Spirit desires to continue to do in and through us!
Central to our hearts and minds being and becoming more stable is pressure or testing. When the pressure is on, we are close to an opportunity to become more stable, as James, puts it –
“that you may be complete and mature, not lacking anything.” James 1:4.
‘That you may,’ is the language of someone responding, doing their part and so the principle imparts what it contains. The principle here in James is perseverance which is the expected out working or fruit of a life under a time of testing v3. Verse three begins with an assumption – ‘because you know that’ the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
Isn’t that just an annoying word, develops?
I say this sarcastically because I have met many believers who have experience and gone through pressure, testing times, and yet they have not become stable. Quite the opposite actually!
This is due, in part, to a wrong paradigm which is called event-mindedness, that simply believes the event will change them. It will but not for the better, unless they respond to what every event offers: an R.S.V.P. And that, is always to understand and work the process being offered – mature and complete not lacking anything.
If our substance is going to transform we need to have, like Peter, a revelation from the Father. As we respond to that revelation by doing our part, consistently, we will see constancy develop and grow in our hearts and minds, and as a result flow downstream into our lives and contexts!
The process of becoming stable I call gym time or road work and in part two of this blog, I share some thoughts about this necessary discipline. Until then some wise words –
“Champions aren’t made in the ring, they are merely recognised there. What you cheat on in the early light of morning [road work/gym time] will show up in the ring under the bright lights!” Joe Frasier [parentheses mine]
If a muscle isn’t worked it atrophies which means it shrinks in size and weakens in its ability to function. When a muscle is over worked it looks weird, disproportionate and often elicits comments.
Expectations are a core, core muscle and avoiding both of the above extremes are vital to the development and maturity of our masculine core. No man lives free of expectations, they usually and sometimes conveniently choose not to accept this or attend to them.
This normally flows from the experience of having had too many wrong expectations put on them or having tried to meet expectations, they have failed or become absolutely frustrated, so they quit. Now they stop expecting and just go with the flow.
For this group of men their expectation muscle is atrophying!
The other extreme reveals itself in something that us men are very prone to; driveness and just like any over worked muscle, driveness is obvious in the life of a man and disproportionate to the Father’s design and desire for our masculine soul. The Father created man to live and work from rest.
Adam’s first working day was the Sabbath! A day off was his starting day!
How can we avoid both extremes? What exercise does our expectation muscle need and how does it become part of our daily routine?
First, we need to accept that we have this expectation muscle by design and our Father desires that we develop and mature it. A failure to acknowledge this truth is dangerous because ‘perishing and lack of knowledge are intrinsically link. See Hosea 4:6.
Then we need to take responsibility to work with our personal training Father, to seek the knowledge we need and then daily act on this so we become wiser and mature at our core. I call this initial part, lifting with the bar.
The bar is the essential tool for all the weights[expectations] we shall choose to lift. Starting to rep with the bar, is a decision and an acknowledgment regarding our desire to get our masculine core into shape!
I am using this illustration of lose weight lifting because of the picture and thought contained in Ecclesiastes 3:10 –
“I have seen the burden God has laid on men!”
The word burden can be translated as heavy responsibility, occupation or task. The thought is not a negative one; burden has so been misunderstood in the church and so it’s time to redeem it.
The thought behind this ‘burden’ He has laid on all men is really the ‘weight of responsibility!’ Our Father given ability to respond; when the right weight of expectation presents itself. God as our personal trainer and spotter knows our potential because He put it in there and so He is only asking for what’s dormant and latent.
When we respond to His expectation prompts, put all our core under the weight of responsibility and rep, we are introducing our potential to the problem He designed us to solve. This is the core exercise our expectation muscle needs!
“Everything manufactured was designed to solve a problem or bring pleasure, with Father it is both.”
..HE predestined us according to His pleasure and His will. Eph 1:5
For it is God Himself whose power creates within you the desire to do His gracious will and also bring about the accomplishment of the desire. Phil 2:13
All this acquiring of knowledge, the discipline of practice and enduring through daily habits [reps] leads us to the core expectation the Father has for His men -achievement!
By design we are hardwired for achievement.
Within our hearts, at the desire level, He has given us ideas and outcomes He would love to see, realities He deeply desires would be released into the earth; AND He has also given us the power to achieve these desires.
Father’s expectation is that we will think about this truth, respond positively in faith and do all He will show us, to make it a reality within our time and space context.
He is the only Father who is allowed to dream his dreams through His sons.
He has great expectations of us men. May we see them fulfilled in our time!
It is a wonderful thing to be led back to the double take in the margins which was written in your own hand.
It’s one of the great joys of the Holy Spirit to double take us, get our attention and lead us into truth.
I know that when He is engaging me in this process I will experience more freedom and liberty in my soul, mind, emotions and then down stream into my life and contexts! I am learning to honour these moments with my full attention.
Pay attention is all the way through both the book of proverbs and my school days!
What did I write in the margin? Wow and appropriate.
These were in response to an amazingly succinct sentence written by Alec Motyer in his commentary on Philippians –
“As we become in experience what we already are by grace!”
As we become in experience is the language of appropriation and this is a lost spiritual discipline. This discipline empowers and enables us to become in our day to day what we are already, the day we reunited with His grace.
” yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name He gave the right to become children of God.” Jn 1:12 NIV
He gave the right are vital words to grasp in relation to the dynamic of appropriation.
The use of appropriate in our culture is predominately about taking what you have no permission or authority to take.
It’s not yours so you cannot take, use or appropriate it!
The Father gave permission and authority to ALL who received and believed His Son and His work, to make their own, ALL He has given us in Christ.
Who we are. What we been given. What we can do.
Identifying with His work is the beginning but not the end of our journey back to Father.
Making real to our experience and contexts, all He has done, given and commanded is!
And the shorthand for that is appropriation
We cannot be more connected, loved, empowered, resourced, protected and thought of because we are in Christ and seated at the right hand of Father.
We have the best seat in the house. This is hospitality beyond five star.
These and many more truths are a part of being in Christ and yet for many the reality of their day to day is anything but!
Every time I eat the appropriate nutrition, take in the appropriate hydration and lift the appropriate weights I appropriate to my body, life and world what is there but needs to become visible!
The Holy Spirit’s primary role after conferring on us the spirit of sonship (adoption) is to testify or witness to our spirits that we are children, heirs and co-heirs!
He double takes us, show us the truth that’s already been given and reveals to us the principles we need to work to make His finished work a reality in our day to day.
I call this my ‘road work!’ My punch the clock workouts!
The only work that made me worthy and deserving of His grace has been done. My ‘road work’ empowers me to become in experience what I already am by grace.
To make visible what is invisible at the moment!
To bring from His dimension into my dimension.
To use theological language justification is all gift. Sanctification is graft!