Yes. You read that title correctly.
No missing participles, gerunds or prepositional phrases.
I am a fitness professional. I earn my income primarily by encouraging others to exercise. Why would I tell you to stop? What new research has been done? What myths have been proven? What new theories have been tested to make me type such a thing?
I will be asking a series of questions and I want you to truthfully answer them. If you answer yes any of them, maybe you need to stop exercising and start praying for pure focus, motivation and purpose. Is one of the reasons you exercise to "prove your haters wrong"? Is your main reason to exercise to look good in a certain article of clothing? Do you think people are looking at you and judging you on your physique? Are you constantly thinking about how your body looks? Do you make it a point to tell all of your Facebook friends about every single one of your exercise sessions? Is your ambition to exercise only fueled by competition? Do you automatically assume people who don't exercise as much as you are lazy? Do you consider yourself better than people who don't exercise as much as you?
Read through that list a few times and see if any of those questions describe you. I know that a few have described me. Not all of them, and not all the time. But when I allow my selfish ambitions and vanity to consume the other more noble reasons I exercise and choose to eat healthier, I should stop. And you should too.
1 John 2:15-16 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - comes not from the Father but from the world.
Those topics - exercise and eating healthy - they incite deep, raw, personal and sometimes harsh feelings.
There is no shortage of information explaining the importance of exercise. No shortage of personal opinions about exercising, selfies of people exercising, or the latest and greatest diets and most successful fitness programs or products. I think everyone understands that exercise is good for you, generally.
But I think what is grossly lacking and where people are negligent, is in the understanding of the potential of exercise and how it supersedes mere physical benefits - how exercise can be a God-pleasing experience and even a way to worship - when it is motivated by the fruits of the Spirit and rooted in thankfulness and gratitude.
Galatians 5:24-25 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
We live in a culture that makes everything about sex, money, prestige and success. Vanity isn't considered harmful, it's even encouraged. You hear and read so many quotes like "do what makes you feel good", "you deserve it", "listen to your heart", "don't care what other people think" , or even "show them who's boss". It is philosophies like these that distort and ruin a person's perspective on exercise. Envy creates a desire to be better than someone else.
Proverbs 14:30: A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.
Did you read that? Re-read it. Envy will only cause the destruction of your body. It CANNOT be a sustainable motivator. You will never be at peace with yourself if you are driven by envy and greed and competition.
I am not saying that trying to become a better athlete, or striving to reach personal fitness goals is wrong. But if the reason you want to become a better athlete is exclusively because you want to beat your opponent, or your desire to increase your personal level of fitness is simply to show off and prove yourself to others, you are missing the boat. You are missing out on an incredible opportunity to honor God with your body and the talents He's given you, to create lasting powerful relationships with a common bond of exercise, to reflect God's awesome power and design in a body and its capabilities and to be content and at peace.
When I exercise, I am worshipping. I am praising God, thanking Him for the strength to perform the way I do. I am fully equipped. He gave me an able body. What a grand privilege. And with any privilege comes great responsibility. That's my motivation. I do what I can with who I am because I am His. And my most recent prayer when I exercise has been these lyrics from Multiplied, a song by NeedtoBreathe:
God of mercy, sweet love of mine I have surrendered to your design May this offering stretch across the sky These hallelujahs be multiplied.