Conversations From The Gym, Part One: Running The Race

by Tom Dolan and Reverend Ryan Fehrmann

We all know people who’ve had difficulty maintaining their fitness regimen from time to time. Most of us have faced it ourselves, at one time or another.

Some people seem to just get it. They look fit and stay fit, year in and year out. Others seem to be in, then they’re out, over and over. It’s almost like they’re doomed to repeat the pattern.

As a Worship Leader on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings, I’ve also been thinking about we all struggle with our faith from time to time. Truth be told, we go hot and cold there too.

It seems like there are some real similarities in how we handle our fitness and our faith. So who better to talk to than a pastor who’s been on his own weight loss journey?

Reverend Ryan Fehrmann is the Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Paris, IL. He has a weekly radio show, and also contributes articles to this newspaper, as well as to Lutheran publications.

As a pastor to pastors, Ryan’s well versed in the ebb and flow of our faith, in lay people and leadership too. He’s been a member at the fitness center for over a year now.

Ryan’s primary interest has always been power lifting, and he’s made significant strength gains over the last year. But recently, he also started on a weight loss program. He added some cardio, and we actually increased his daily calorie target goal.

In the past 6 weeks, he’s lost a total of 14 pounds, averaging about 2 pounds a week. He told me he’s had to take up his belt three notches and that he was now another one of my success stories.

I told him that I love hearing about the successes, but it’s hard to get past the “failures.” No matter what we do, half the people quit, and that doesn’t even count the people who just can’t seem to get started. Ryan said, “welcome to my world.”

So I asked his thoughts on why is it so difficult for people to get started, and if they do, why is it so hard to commit to either one, whether it’s practicing our faith or keeping our fitness? Here’s what he had to say:

I think there are some parallels to physical and spiritual fitness. The Apostle Paul said, “…train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

That may not seem like a big endorsement for exercise, but Paul notes each has value. The difference is that physical training has value in this life, but spiritual training has a present and eternal value. By the way, the Greek word for ‘training’ is where the word ‘gym’ comes from.

The point is that training is training. They both take effort. They both should have a goal. We’re not talking salvation here. Jesus Christ has won that race and gained the victory for us.

The goal in spiritual training is Godliness with contentment, and preparation for wrestling with the temptations and battles of the Christian life. It’s not an easy path, but it’s a completely fulfilling and healthy one.

Paul even uses examples of boxing, running, and Olympic training in his writings to describe this spiritual training. Just as Paul wrote about, we’ve got to run the race and finish the course.

As I was listening to Ryan, I got pretty excited. Everything he was saying brought things into focus for me. God is wanting us to run our own race to the best of our ability, whatever that race might be. He’ll help us do it too.

But it’s not the win that matters; it’s what we learn along the way. It’s the improvements we can make, on our faith journey, and in our fitness too. We’re created in His image. Maybe it’s time we start living like it.

Next week, we’ll look at how a thing called Grace can help us do that. Until then, let’s just get started.

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