By Pastor Pete Smith
September 15, 2022

One of the things that makes fitness goals difficult to achieve is delayed gratification. If you begin to consistently eat responsibly now, it will still be several days before the earliest indicators of success are noticeable.  The same is true for beginning and maintaining an exercise regimen.  There is no delay in experiencing exhaustion and muscle soreness, but the start of the positive results you’re looking appear much later.  Despite what the infomercials claim, there is no special pill or particular piece of equipment that is going to give you genuine results instantly.

The Christian life is similar in this respect.  Believers must put the work in, trusting that the fruit of spiritual growth will be evident some time in the future.  Additionally, there is no church, book or podcast that is going to make your spiritual life healthy and fit overnight.  And while there may not be spiritual fitness informercials, there is the ever-present temptation to look at other Christians and become disheartened at your lack of progress.  Self-evaluating thoughts like “Why don’t I know more by now?” can easily transition into self-pitying thoughts like “Why is life so much more difficult for me?”  A godly concern over the desire for spiritual fitness can descend into discontented anxiety over physical needs.

God knows this is a temptation for you.  In Matthew 6 He both acknowledges it and provides a remedy.  First, the acknowledgment of physical concerns.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. (Mt. 6:25–32)

God tells you not to be anxious about physical things because He knows that’s where your mind tends to go.  You take mental inventory of every obstacle in your life and ask, “How can it all possibly get done?”  It is natural to have these concerns, but He is reassuring you that He will give you what you need.  Do you believe it?  What kind of belief is reflected in your behavior, in your speech, in your driving habits even?  Would your family and friends say that you believe that God is going to provide?  Or are you like a chain-smoking worrywart, lighting up the next problem while the current one is still burning?

The reference to the “Gentiles” that “seek after all these things” is an observation that this is exactly what the world does.  It is constantly discontented and anxious.  The Christian need not be swept up in that way of life.  God knows what you need and He will provide.

Second, God tells you what you should do instead, and again it is analogous to a fitness goal.  The wise way to accomplish a long-term objective is to set shorter, manageable goals in the near-term.  If you want to run a 10K with a friend next year, you may set a shorter daily distance goal.  Look at how God instructs you to use the same mindset in your daily Christian walk.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Mt. 6:33–34)

Your job is to stop being consumed with the totality of your responsibilities and to prioritize them in a way that demonstrates that you are seeking God and His righteousness first.  As you go about that exercise, limit your process to today.  Stop the endless, “Yeah, but what if’s” of future days and choose to go your designated distance for God today.  There may still be exhaustion and soreness involved in it, but God has promised that all the real needs wrapped up in the anxiety you gave up will be added to you.  That’s a gratification worth the delay!

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