I looked around while working out at the Wellness Center the other day and noticed the place was crowded. All the treadmills and elliptical machines were being used. I wondered what was going on. Then I remembered that it was the first of the year, and the New Year’s resolution “I’m going to get in shape” crowd was there. And they will be there, for awhile. But by April, only a few of them will still be around, working out and exercising on a regular basis.
Dr. David Jeremiah is probably my favorite media Christian preacher. I enjoy and can relate to his solid, practical Biblical teaching. Dr. Jeremiah overcame a battle with cancer a few years ago and he now exercises regularly to keep up his health. Recently on a TV broadcast he stated that he was asked if he enjoys going to the gym. He replied, “I don’t particularly enjoy going to the gym. But I enjoy having gone to the gym.” And that’s something to which I can definitely relate.
Let’s face it, exercising and getting into shape is not particularly fun. And it’s not easy. It takes time and effort. Dr. Jeremiah feels that the health benefits of going to the gym are worth his time and effort, even though he may not always enjoy it. For most of the New Year’s resolution gym crowd, they will decide it’s not.
Is it worth the time? Is it worth the effort? Those are questions we ask ourselves probably everyday, whether consciously or, more often, subconsciously. And not just whether or not to go to the gym. Is going back to school to get that degree worth the time and effort? Is the money and benefits received from that new job worth the time and effort of a career change? Is getting married worth the time or effort? (Be careful how you answer that question!) Those are big questions where we obviously should consider the time and effort involved. But there are other times that are not so obvious.
Did you go to church this morning? (If you read this early, are you going?) Why or why not? Without getting too spiritual, whether you did or not really came down to those two questions. Is it worth my time? Is it worth my effort? (Just so you will know, I have found that it’s worth my time and effort.) The weather may have been bad, or you may have not felt good. Those may have been considerations in your decision, but you still had to decide if attending church was worth your time or effort. You may have gone this morning out of habit. You didn’t think about it, you just went. But somewhere along the line, you determined that going to church was worth the time and effort, and was worth going on a regular basis, and thus became a habit. I suppose the opposite could be said if you have a habit of not going.
How do you determine if something is worth the time or effort? In business, they do a cost-benefit analysis. Will the income, or benefits, from a product manufactured outweigh the cost involved in its manufacture, such as labor, materials, machinery, etc.? They also have to determine what will be the negative consequences for not manufacturing the product. Leaders in the business world have to answer those types of questions on a daily basis.
We have to determine what the benefits are of investing our time and effort. And also determine the consequences if we don’t. That decision is made based on information, on what we know. For example, seventy-five years ago we knew little about the harmful effects of smoking cigarettes. We didn’t have the information, we didn’t know. Now we do. Now we know the benefits of quitting and the probable consequences if continued. Knowing the facts, smokers have to determine if it’s worth their time and effort to stop.
But since the benefits or consequences are not often immediate, it’s often hard to take the time or make the effort, especially when it’s actually going to take time and effort. It’s easy to quit going to the gym when your schedule gets crowded, or you didn’t lose that fifteen pounds that first month. It’s easy not to get up and go to church when it’s cold outside, or you had a long week, etc. It’s easy to keep on smoking when all your friends are, and you’ve got a ninety-five year old aunt who still smokes a pack a day and is still around. The easy and the immediate are the enemies of time and effort. That’s where discipline becomes important. (I know, I hate that word, too.) Discipline helps us get through something we may not particularly enjoy inorder to reap its benefits later.
I suppose that’s what the author, in Hebrews 12:11, meant when he wrote, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” So hang in there, all you New Year’s resolution folks. You may end up enjoying going to the gym. Well, at least like Dr. Jeremiah, having gone.