Improving The Self Comes With Unexpected Risks

“Be doers of the Word, not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” James 1:22

How easily we forget the past, and how easily forgetting the past leads to a judgmental heart. Just months ago, I was saying to myself, “I want to be in shape, but it is too hard,” and today I am saying, “If I can do it, anyone can.” This movement in thought is inevitable when one goes from thinking he cannot do something to then actually accomplishing that seemingly impossible task. “If I can, anyone can,” is a great attitude when the focus is on our own ability in spite of our own lack of confidence in the self, but it is not well and good when the focus is on the lack of doing of the other. When I forget that I once was that person who could not get into shape due to my own understandings of personal ability, and I begin to think of only how easy it is for me now that I have been at it for some time, then I run the risk of being judgmental of the person that is now just as I was only months prior.
We see this in all sorts of areas, and it is especially true of the church. Those of us who have walked with Christ for some time and have actually allowed Him to sanctify us to a great degree, often look at people wallowing in obvious and abhorrent sin and say, “Why do they not just do as I do?” We might not say it out loud or even consciously, but we do say it sometimes. For me to tell people that they can do something without showing them how and providing real opportunity for living out the change is to merely criticizes those around me.
When I suggest that a person should live a certain way, I am saying, whether I mean to or not, that they are not living as optimally as they could. If I simply leave it there, I have only critiqued a life, I have not helped to change it. What good is that? Sometimes, guilt can be a motivator, but it never has a great success rate. Instead of merely criticizing, I need to help in a real tangible way to provide opportunity for the person to better him or herself.  James makes this point in his letter. Faith, having a belief in something, makes little to no difference in mere words. It is completed in action (James 2:14-17). In other words, faith is not really faith until it is lived. If I want to be affective, I cannot merely say I want to help people and talk about it all day long, even to their face, and do nothing of real help. That is useless, and frankly merely critical, which leads to being judgmental in only a few short steps.

I must be sure to stress what I mean when I say, you must act, being that “doer” James speaks of (1:22).  This is certainly a developing community that is coming to understand, we hope, that fitness is not merely about the self, but has Kingdom implications. As such, we should want to be evangelical about our cause, sharing with others the far extending benefits of fitness. If I truly believe this, I must also believe, if I feel called to share, that I must act. Mere words, as James suggests, do little. But, when I say, be a “doer,” I am not merely suggesting that we must work out. The action of living out, for yourself, that thing you preach is certainly a must, but it is not enough. We cannot just demonstrate and say, “See that. Now, you go and do it yourself.” If we take our call to share wellness seriously, we must be willing to invest in the people we care about. We must truly serve. This might not be anything more than sitting down with the person and helping them manage their schedule, giving them helpful tips to fit in a workout. It might be, for those who most need it, financial help to get the proper care. It might be doing some research to find the person a proper physician. Whatever the case, if we feel the need to share, we better make sure it is of God, because it is a huge commitment that demands we have grace running through us.

We hope that this realization sets us apart from someone who would merely right a blog, book, or magazine article about fitness. While this site might not appear to be much different on the surface, our philosophy, once understood, will hopefully portray this site as a tool much more than mere critique. Hopefully this site will become a tool of real opportunity. So, what are we doing here to make a difference? We are committed to the idea that community strengthens discipline. People in community can spur one another on to greater success. This site is a place to come and find encouragement in community. The nature of this site is such that it is meant for a large and far reaching community, so we cannot provide a geographic place for community, but a global, internet community, which is community nonetheless.
This is not just a reminder of who we are; I hope that you can apply this thought to your own life as well, as you live and serve as a Christian in your own community. As you improve, do not forget what you once were and how easily you can slip back to that state: Do not be “like those who look at themselves in a mirror…and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.” I hope that you can speak into the lives of others in such a way that they would hear real opportunity coming from your words, not mere critique. May our words be real testimony of who we once were and who God is making us to be. Judgment is not ours, but, by God’s grace and help, making a real difference in lives is. In whatever you find yourself called to do in ministry, and we are all called somewhere, be sure to not merely critique those around you, but provide help, or at very least point them to where they need to go for real help.
“Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13b
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