The other day, I was going for an early morning jog. Some mornings I’m really energetic and ready-to-roll, and other mornings I’m lower-energy and simply persevering through it for the health benefits. This particular morning was on the lower-energy side of the scale.
Part of the way through the jog, the Lord began to speak to me about my posture and breathing. I had never noticed this before, but on higher-energy days my posture is good and upright and my breathing is deep and consistent for the whole run; and I seem to just power through it and really enjoy the jog. But on lower-energy days (like this one), my posture is slouchy and my breathing is shallow, and the whole jog seems like a drudge.
The Lord highlighted to me that on lower-energy days, when my “drive” is down and my flesh is weak, that I have a tendency to try to shift the work of the jog onto my skeleton because my muscles just “don’t want to”. This is why my posture is bad…because my body is trying to do as little work as possible by leaning on the structure that supports it, rather than the flesh that’s designed to carry it. And my breathing becomes more shallow, because my flesh is more interested in resting than in exercising.
Jesus then showed me that this situation is typical on several levels. For example, in a group context like church-life, family-life, or work-life; if someone is having a lazy-day or a lazy-season, or a lazy-life, then they’ll rely on the structure that’s in place to carry them as they try to take a little responsibility as possible to achieve as low of an amount of exertion as they can get by with. They’ll be physically present, but their preparation and contribution for the group will be minimal or non-existent; and they’ll be looking to do more receiving than giving.
Back in a jogging context, relying too much on the skeletal structure puts unhealthy levels of stress on the body in places like the joints, and can wear them out prematurely. And shallow breathing leaves the muscles in a constant state of fatigue, and provokes a nagging desire to quit.
On a personal level and a group level, it’s important put off the temptation towards leaning on the structure and resting out of laziness, and to follow Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 9:
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
The flesh is lazy, but the Spirit is not. And when the flesh is “feeling lazy”, the Spirit is still ready to roll. Christ Jesus lives in us and He is always motivated. His spirit will quicken our bodies to press into the responsibilities that He has given us, but it does require us to say no the lazy flesh and listen to the Spirit’s promptings instead. When we do, then we’ll experience the fresh wind of His spirit blowing us beyond our natural abilities and inclinations, and we’ll enjoy the satisfaction of the fruit of godly determination.