If you have seen me recently, you may not believe this, but I spent 4 years working as a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness. I carried multiple certifications, received great continuing education, had access to top-of-the-line equipment and supplements, and worked with some incredibly educated and innovative fitness experts. I trained a great number of people for a countless number of hours, some of whom experienced life-changing results. I loved what I did and was passionate about the health and fitness of myself and others. I was by no means the best personal trainer out there, but I was pretty good at what I did and consider my time there very successful. All of this makes me wonder, what in the world has happened to me?!
SO, WHAT HAPPENED?
With all of my knowledge and experience, how have I gotten to be chubby and out of shape? I have not forgotten everything I learned, the basic physiology of the body has not changed in the last 15 years, and workout programs and gyms are more accessible now than ever (I know this because I just cancelled my membership at 24 Hour Fitness 6 months ago because they weren’t seeing me there enough.) Here is what I have figured out: my level of obedience to the knowledge that I have and the extent to which I take advantage of available options determine my success or failure. I don’t need more knowledge about fitness, I don’t need better gyms, the fad fitness tracker, or the new miracle supplement. I need to DO the things that I know I should do and NOT DO the things I know I should not do. It really is that simple. If you or I focused on the 3 main truths of fitness and remained steadfast in our obedience to them, we would both be in pretty good shape fairly quickly.
THIS IS NOT ABOUT FITNESS, IT’S ABOUT EVERYTHING
I am pretty confident that this approach works for just about any aspect of life. Focus on the 3-5 basic concepts, be faithfully obedient to them, and you will see healthy progress. Once you have the critical things down pat, move on
to the more complicated things to get even better. Once you perfect the basics, then go after the trade secrets, the gadgets, deeper knowledge of your subject, the good-to-great little details. But always remember that the main things must always be the main things. Without them, the more complicated things become useless. Cars must always have wheels, a powertrain, and a chassis. Every baseball play comes down to some combination of throwing, catching, or hitting. Parenting can be boiled down to nurturing, discipline, loving and teaching. I would argue that everything is simpler than we make it out to be. Here is a brief look at three areas where I think over-complication leads to neglect out of frustration. Unfortunately, in each of these areas, I have experience in being near both extremes!
As a young man with no real guidance in finance, I was extremely overwhelmed. I quickly found myself in the all too typical situation of being in debt with no savings and no real plan to change my status. Over the last 6 years or so, I have learned that being financially sound is pretty simple. (Note: I didn’t say rich, I said financially sound.) Financial success, no matter your income level, pretty much comes down to budgeting, saving, and staying out of debt. You can spend hours, weeks, and even months studying financial theories and strategies, but if you spend more than you make because you don’t budget, don’t take advantage of compound interest by saving, and pay interest on debts, you will be broke. On the other hand, you can make $20k a year and be well prepared for retirement if you are diligent in your obedience to the simple truths. Need proof, read the story of Mr. Earl Crawley.
Not to discredit trainers, coaches, exercise gurus or dietitians, but there is no great secret to fitness. If you want to maintain or increase muscular strength, you have to do resistance training. To improve cardiac, pulmonary and circulatory performance, you have to challenge yourself with cardiovascular training. And weight loss/gain boils down to how many calories you take in versus how many you put out. Certainly, you need to get more intense and more complicated to become a CrossFit competitor or to win American Ninja Warrior. But the real difference between those guys and me is that they have an insane level of obedience to the 3 main things and I occasionally think about them in passing. That, and they are a little slimmer.
As a pastor, I hear from people often about “growing in their faith” or “spiritually maturing”. My concern is that we tend to focus only on wanting more knowledge, a greater depth of understanding and more ways to practice our faith. These things are great, but I believe that spiritual growth comes from increasing you level of obedience. Rather than primarily seeking a greater understanding of the Bible and ensuring we do church the “right way”, I feel like we need to spend more of our time and efforts working on our obedience to the things that we do understand, the things that are made very clear to us, and the most well known Biblical truths. Rather than debating gay marriage or arguing over what type of music should be played in churches, we should be focused on our commitment to those things that are non-negotiable. When asked, Jesus told us in Matthew 22 that the main things were to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbors as ourselves. He went on to say that everything else hinged on that. Basically, without these 2 things, anything else is missing the point. Just like increasing physical or financial health, our spiritual well-being is determined by how obedient we are to the main truths that never change.
So, in order to preserve my theory, I will sum all of this up into 3 main things:
1) Always let the main things be the main things. 2) Do the things you should do, and don’t do the things you should not do. 3) Seek to increase you level of obedience, not just your level of knowledge or understanding.
I would love to hear your opinion on WHY we tend to miss the simple things in search of the complexities. Feel free to comment with your thoughts.