I’ve been thinking about New Year’s resolutions a bit lately because, well it’s the New Year. And this time of year is the lifeblood of the fitness industry. We’re all hoping that this is the year that the miracle transformation takes place right? It occurred to me recently that I can’t think of one miracle, biblically speaking, that isn’t preceded by an act of sacrifice or faith. Sometimes it’s both. There are some obvious ones that come to mind for me. (side note- if you aren’t a believer, stick with me as there’s wisdom in this) The account of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is actually a story of both. For those of you unfamiliar with the account of these three, King Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful man in the world at the time, erected a statue of himself and demanded everyone bow down to it.
These three devout Jewish men, slaves captured in war and servants to the King, refused to do so out of love and respect for their God. The King, enraged by this, threatened to have all three of them thrown into a furnace and burned alive if they didn’t give in. Their response was epic.
“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” – Daniel 3:16-18
“The God we serve will deliver us from it.” (Act of faith)
“Even if he does not” (Act of sacrifice)
Their declaration of faith and willingness to sacrifice their lives rather than offend their God was followed up by an appearance of, at the very least an angel of the Lord, and what some believe to be Jesus, showing up to protect them. True to his word, Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into the fire. Once there, the fourth man appeared in the fire with them and kept them safe to the point that not even their clothing smelled of smoke. A miracle indeed.
Another great example of this combination of either sacrifice or faith preceding a miracle can be seen in the encounter between Jesus and the Roman Centurion whose servant was sick. He came to Jesus seeking help. He explained the situation and Jesus responded by asking, “Should I come to your home?” The Centurion’s answer was thick with faith. “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” This whole encounter can be seen in Mathew 8:5-13. Just say the word and I will know it’s done. That was the soldiers’ response. That’s faith folks.
Okay, here’s an easy one. Nearly everyone, believer or not, has likely heard the story of the Apostle Peter and his brief attempt to walk on water. Well, I shouldn’t say attempt because he actually did it, even if it was short lived.
“Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.’ ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’- Mathew 14:25-27
Now the Scripture doesn’t say that Peter debated on whether or not he should jump in the water. It doesn’t bring up any discussion with Jesus. There was no event with Jesus saying “Come” and Peter looking at the water and then yelling back “Are you sure?” It just says that Jesus said “Come” and Peter went. (Act of faith) Think about that for a minute. Peter got to walk on water because he jumped when Jesus told him to do something seemingly nuts. It wasn’t until he stopped focusing on Jesus that things went south for him.
I bring all of this up for a reason. How many of us are looking for a fitness “miracle”, especially this time of the year, without putting in the sacrifice or exercising faith? We have all seen the amazing before and after pics in magazines or on websites. We all want that, but are we willing to do the work? Are we willing to keep going when it gets tough, when we’re about to be put in the metaphorical fire?
What is it about your current lifestyle that needs to be sacrificed in order to accomplish your goal or resolution? Is it late night eating while you work on projects for school or your job? Is it pizza night with your friends? Do you need to sacrifice staying up late watching TV so that you have time to get workouts in before work? (That one is me) What do you need to put on the alter?
Are you showing faith? Okay, you’re asking yourself “What does faith have to do with fitness”? Well let me ask you this, if you don’t have faith in what you’re doing, will you stick with it? Because if you don’t stick with it, you have no shot of succeeding.
And if you are a believer, let me ask you a serious question. Have you asked God to take part in your physical journey? I think that sometimes we as Christians feel like asking God to take part in a physical transformation is somehow beneath him. We feel like it’s not important enough for him to take part in something that can be construed as vain. I have two points for you to consider:
- If he knows you so well that he has counted every hair on your head, it’s safe to say that he’s interested in your physical health.
- He has put you here for a purpose. Being a healthier, stronger, and more energetic version of yourself will help you pursue that purpose with more vigor.
Oh and here’s a bonus point. Wanting to be healthy and look good is not vain. Letting that desire supersede things that are more important is the real issue. (Kind of like the idea that money isn’t bad, the love of money is bad)
So in closing, if you are looking for the dramatic or miraculous in your physical walk, if your looking to make a resolution that sticks and makes an impact, here’s your checklist:
- make the sacrifices you need to make
- put your faith into something that will work
- be consistent with it
- last but most of all, pray about it and invite Him into the journey. He’s already there anyways.
Happy New Year!