“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown which will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:25-27
Very interestingly, the use of this word “exertion” was much more prevalent in past centuries than in ours, a fact which surprised me. Strange, but for what it’s worth, is it that this generation would rather just have things come easily than through the necessities of personal exertion and hard labor to attain worthy goals? Exertion is both physical and mental; the latter has inextricably proven to be more difficult, but physical exertion has also proven to be a real stretch for those who have become used to having things provided for them without it. One of the problems requiring constant focus by our staff at the Paul Anderson Youth Home in working with the young men God sends us is the necessity of teaching the vital life importance of exertion in physical labor; a developed work ethic on arrival is practically non-existent. Work is seen as drudgery to avoid rather than a worthy endeavor to build life-long character.
Work is actually designed by God to be rewarding in and of itself, both physically and spiritually. God created our psyches and our bodies for doing work as a primary and treasured purpose of life. Leisure is meant to be the occasional rest and “re-setting” of the mind and body for returning with greater vigor and sharper focus to your life’s work. However, in the present culture’s primary perspective, work is meant only to sustain as much leisure as possible, not the opposite. Current thinking is, if at all possible, live a life of leisure, not of work. But God designed work to be enjoyable, fulfilling, and a nurturer of good in you when done to His glory.
Physical exertion ought to inspire spiritual exertion, and spiritual exertion is meant to spur physical exertion. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24) “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) They go hand in hand; physical and spiritual exertion are integrated activities, even as the body, mind, and spirit are integrated, essential parts of the whole person. If physical exertion is separated from a pursuit of God in mind and heart, it loses its eternal value and squanders its ultimate reward. In pursuing your work with all your might, your mind and spirit should be engaging eternal questions like, “Why am I doing this? What is its purpose? What is the end of it, and what is my end?” Too often man falls miserably short in attaining satisfying answers to such questions; he or she accepts a deceptively false answer which fails to satisfy, and eventually, beyond its initial and desirable enticement, rots, in exchange for the results which satisfy and always will. If your physical exertion does not lead to a pursuit of God, it is wasted in the end, for there is no satisfying work, no knowledge, no wisdom in the place of the dead (Sheol), a place destined for all who will not grasp hold of their Maker in this life, by failing to cling to Christ when He is near.
Next week some of our boys and staff will begin a 650 mile bike ride from Key West, Florida, to Vidalia, Georgia, home of the PAYH. Undoubtedly, this is a challenge of great physical exertion, not for the weak-hearted. This is not just a test of physical strength, but a test of will and spirit, as any similar challenge. Pray that this will lead the young men to a thoughtful pursuit of Almighty God through His Son; an exertion which will not find rest until there is assurance of His continual presence and a deposit in their heart of His promised reward. There is abundant time to think while exerting muscle to pedal. The surrounding views are thought-provoking, considering God’s beautifully skilled craftsmanship in His world. Why am I doing this? What do I get out of it? It is so easy and natural to pursue this achievement for your own glory, but it is far more rewarding to do it for His. This is why you and I get up in the morning, it is why we continue to breathe, it is why we work, and it is why we are. Your exertion in any worthy endeavor will always satisfy your spirit when you do it for Him.
“Father, I know that all my life is portioned out for me; the changes that are sure to come I do not fear to see. I ask thee for a present mind, intent on pleasing thee.”
(1st verse of Anna Waring’s hymn, “Father, I Know that All My Life”, 1850)
If you would like to learn more about the Paul Anderson Bike Ride, please visit www.payhbikeride.com.
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