Exercise for the New Year
We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of hope until the end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who, through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises.
I do more of my exercise at home now, but when I belonged to a gym, shortly after the first of the year there was a repeatable and interesting phenomenon. After January 1, the gym would be very, very crowded. But after a while (around 2 weeks) slowly there became the slow exodus of the newcomers. Their resolve at the new year, or their desire to use that gift of a gym membership had started to fade.
Making a resolution is easy. It is hard to keep it. The start is exciting as we imagine just what the end of keeping our promise and achieving our goal will look like. But after a little while into our resolution, the reality sets in. Just as the people in the gym slowly leave the gym and little by little give up on the exercise they are doing, our spiritual resolutions can be the type of exercise we walk away from as well.
We read about this in the letter to the Hebrews. Just like the resolution to commit to exercise can be easy to walk away from, the early fervor we experienced when we made the promise of faith can become stale as well. We can lose our early fervor, we can skip a day of prayer, and before we know it, the relationship we committed to starts to fade away.
It is for this reason we need to look first at our God, who helped Abraham, who is mentioned in this letter to the Hebrews. God promised, because of Abraham’s faith, to make him the father of many nations. God tells those who demonstrated the love of God in the exercise of serving the holy ones that such discipline will not go unnoticed.
But we need to be careful here. It is not simply the case that what we need is to work harder, as if all of this depended upon us. No, the exercise of faith is one where God helps us with the gift of his grace. Unlike the physical exercise, which does depend largely on our effort, spiritual exercise is where we need to engage in surrendering to the grace of God.
What we need to do is to pray for the gift of perseverance. It is not easy. Just as athletes need to train their bodies, so too we need to train our souls.
We do not do any of this alone. God is always with us. We have the prayers of others. We have the community of faith. In every time and place, when we seek the community of faith and open our eyes to the presence of God great things can happen.
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