Exercising Faith

Some years ago I registered with my friend Roger for a mini-triathlon. While the biking and jogging seemed doable, the swimming scared me. It felt as if I’d be attempting to cross the Grand Canyon on a pogo stick.

“It’s only a quarter of a mile,” Roger explained. “You couldn’t drown if you tried.”

“But Roger, people drown in hot tubs.”

“Sure, but that’s different. They aren’t competing.”

“Huh?”

“Trust me it’s different.”

“Okay. It’s different.”

Next thing I knew, we were diving into the frigid waters of Moses Lake. To survive among a thousand other swimmers I ventured my version of hydro Tae-Bo. After what seemed like the melting of an ice age, I finally carved a wake around the final buoy and thrashed toward shore.

Collapsing on the sand I looked up at Roger peering over me. I seemed to be hallucinating—Roger’s hair was dry. “Did you swim?” I asked. “Or was I so slow that you had time to go home and blow-dry your hair?”

I went swimming,” he smirked. “I walked right next to you the whole way. Didn’t you hear me preaching at you? ‘Get going. Work hard. Persevere.” I didn’t have to swim, because the water was never more than four feet deep.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked wide-eyed.

“I wanted to, but it was too comical to watch you almost drown.”

“You mean I almost drowned in water no deeper than my chest?”

“If it makes you feel any better, the water was deeper than your hot tub,” Roger laughed.

Needless to say, I was as mad as a wet hen. It just didn’t seem fair that I had worked so hard while Roger took an easy walk in the wading pool.

But that’s human nature, isn’t it? It seems that few of us fully embrace the hard road of discipline if we can opt for the path of ease. Yet it’s when we push ourselves to the limit and test our outer boundaries that we grow stronger.

This principle rings true not only in the swimming arena, but in the spiritual arena as well. Just as we’ll never become better swimmers by walking in the water, so we will never become better disciples by opting out on the spiritual disciplines.

So don’t dodge the disciplines. Rather, embrace the hard work of fasting, praying, rising early for morning devotions, and practicing secret acts of service. These, along with a host of other spiritual disciplines, will make you a strong disciple of Jesus. And that’s the only way to someday echo the words of Paul: “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Discipline yourself now in order to finish the race. Get going. Work hard. Persevere. The world doesn’t need anymore hot tub Christians. In fact, I’ve heard you could die there.

June 01, 2003 / Fresh Start
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Karl Haffner is senior pastor of the Walla Walla College Church and writes from College Place, Wash.