If You Can't Take the Heat...

christian faith personal growth Feb 01, 2022

I have a love/hate relationship with exercise.

I hate taking time away from other activities to go walk or bike or push bars and pull levers. I love, however, the results. Being able to pick up a grandchild without worrying about throwing out my back. Trekking around a city or through the woods without sounding like the big bad wolf – huffing and puffing. And, as research proclaims, reducing the probability of mental and physical incapacity in my later years. But I still wish there was a method to achieve the results without sweating.

There’s a reason work is four letters.

Yet without it, who would we be?

We need to be like cakes. Not, I don’t mean dense or frosted. Rather, we become ourselves in a process mirroring how flour, eggs, oil, spices, sweetener, and leavening transforms into a delicious dessert. Ingredients are combined, poured into a container, and subjected to heat. Heat, as you recall from science class, is a form of energy. In other words, work. Until sufficient energy is applied for the right time, there’s no cake. Cake batter, yes. But not cake.

I’d rather be like celery. Minor washing and it’s ready to go. But really, how many dinner guests leave raving about your awesome celery?

Love, we know, requires work in our human relationships. Choosing to have a conglomeration of needs and desires and beliefs brought together, mixed up, placed inside constraints, and then staying in the heat long enough for transformation to occur. It’s no different in our relationship with God. It requires work.

It’s tempting to settle for cake-batter living. We’ve identified a recipe for making it to heaven. We have the right combination of beliefs. We’re even content to stay inside the constraints of God’s rules – as long as they can be measured in phrases like, “Thou shalt not ….”

To the degree we commit to the process of loving God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength, we’ll avoid raw and wasted abilities.

We don’t (usually) bake cakes just to consume ourselves. We serve others. Exercise isn’t just about feeling good but remaining healthy to do good. Choosing to engage in the work of living the First Great Commandment doesn’t just help us win our battles but those around us.

After becoming king, Saul had to fight against many enemies. One of the most formidable were the Philistines who controlled the Israelite’s weapon manufacturing. In 1 Samuel 13:19-22 we learn they prevented the Israelites from operating any blacksmithing shops to prevent the making of weapons. This would be like Iran or North Korea being in charge of the United States’ Department of Defense.

Not only were the Israelites without weaponry to have a reasonable chance against the Philistines, they were terrified as well. These were not chest-thumping, “Go Israel; Hu!” warriors. In one particular battle, outlined in 1 Samuel 13:6-7, the reporting officer would have said something like this: “King, your troops are currently stationed behind rocks, in holes, caves, tombs, and wells, in desperate hope they will not be seen and will not have to actually engage in combat. Some even ran away, crossing the mighty Jordan River in hopes the enemy isn’t into river-fording and doesn’t come after them. The people in general are shaking they’re so scared. So good to see you and your son, Jonathan, have a couple of swords in your possession. I’m sure that will be enough to fend off the 30,000 charioteers and 6,000 foot soldiers and Calvary the Philistines have amassed.”

While Saul was mulling his options and his army was mostly looking for ways to escape, his son Jonathan hatched a plan. It went something like this: “Hey, kid who carries my armor, let’s do some rock climbing near the Philistine camp. When they see us, if they threaten us one way, we’ll stop and wait for them to attack. If they threaten us another way, we’ll charge and attack them.” Kid-with-the-armor says, “Sure. I’m with you to the end.” And off they went.

(Did you catch neither option included a way to scurry back to camp and forget engaging in battle?)

Jonathan wasn’t being a show-off. In fact, he hadn’t told anybody about his plans -- not even his dad, the king. He was being himself -- a man whose heart had been formed through many choices to be honorable, courageous, loyal, and God-following. He had done the work of forging his character and when he had to choose to run and hide or climb and fight, he was ready.

If you read the entire story in 1 Samuel 14:1-23, you’ll discover Jonathan’s decision turned the entire tide of the battle. God showed up with power. People responded to Jonathan’s courage by finding their own. And the Israelite army transformed from wimps of fear to warriors of faith.

Sweating isn’t charming.
Submitting to heat isn’t appealing.
But the results, both on earth and in heaven, are dazzling.


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