Consistency builds strength


I try to incorporate several healthy disciplines into my life every day in order to be at an optimal level. I am not naturally disciplined, but I’ve learned things go better for me when I am disciplined.

For example, I am currently exercising six days a week (Sunday is the exception). I mix three days of weight lifting and three days of aerobic exercise. When I don’t do it, I know that it won’t go well for me. Chronic pain will surface in familiar areas, and I’ll get out of breath, or gain weight, or my sugar will go up. So, I have learned to be consistent and just make exercise part of my every day life.

What I have noticed is that consistency builds up strength over a long period of time. There is no substitute for doing something every day. When you don’t feel like getting up out of bed and exercising, that is the point when it is important to just get up and do it. Even so, if you do the same thing in the same way day after day, it becomes stale, constricting, a grind. When I hate the very thought of doing it again, I know I need to switch something up to keep it fresh. So, if I am scheduled for a certain weight lifting routine and don’t want to do it, I will change it up. I’ll add some pounds but do less repetitions, or I’ll lessen the weight and try to do more repetitions for a longer duration. I give myself permission not to do the same thing in the same way.

The same is true for aerobic exercise. When I hate the very thought of getting on an exercise bike in my basement, I’ll put on some running shoes and do some walking around town for the same amount of time I would’ve spent on the bike. Usually, I go for half an hour, but one day last week I got on the bike, turned the resistance down, and pedaled for a full hour while I watched a few innings of a baseball game. It’s the variety that keeps you going and helps you maintain your strength over the long haul. Both consistency and variety are needed to keep me going in the right direction.

I have found that relationship between consistency and variety to be true regardless of what discipline I am working on. It’s true of what I eat — I stay away from a lot of things that I know aren’t good for me, but I also prepare dishes I’ve never had before to keep things interesting. When it comes to my relationship with my wife, I know it is important to have a consistent pattern of spending time with her. Thirty years of marriage is possible because we date regularly. Even so, if we only go out to eat it gets old in a hurry. Our dates could be looking at interesting things in antique shops, going for a beautiful hike, going to the city to take in a live show, or going to a sporting event to watch our favorite team play. The consistency communicates the priority. The variety keeps it interesting.

The same is true in our relationship with God. I try to practice various spiritual disciplines, especially in the mornings before I go to work. The two staples for me in spending time with God are prayer and reading the scriptures. I will go through seasons when I pray in certain ways or read the Bible using different plans. Right now, my plan involves reading a chapter of the Bible a day followed by using a journal to write out my thoughts on a particular passage. Even though I am a preacher, I resist the urge to have this time be sermon prep.

I read and pray because I am a human being in need of God’s constant presence in my life. Sometimes my devotional life can feel stuck, stale, a drudgery. That’s when I know I need to switch things up. Maybe instead of reading a chapter a day, I increase to three or four chapters a day (you can read through the entire Bible on that pace in a year’s time). If I do that, I’ll ditch the journaling. Sometimes I use a prayer list and pray down through it for various requests. Sometimes I try to quiet my mind and practice Christian meditation when I simply ask God to speak to me. Maybe I add the discipline of fasting for a certain time period, giving up eating certain meals or certain foods in order to ask God to fill me instead.

When it comes to your involvement in church, the same consistency/variety relationship comes in play. The consistency is in being present each and every week for worship. The variety comes in so many different ways. It could be giving up a ministry you have been engaged in for a long time in order to do a completely different ministry. It could be joining a small accountability group, or a Bible study, or a musical group, or a logistical service team like the financial team. If your experience of your church is characterized by mundane boredom, the answer may not be trying to find a different church. The answer may be trying something new that the church is offering that you have never been involved in before.

In order to get out of a rut, you have to give yourself permission to give up certain things and create space for the new thing. That is true with exercise or eating, dating your spouse (or your child or grandchild), your relationship with God, or your involvement in your local church. If you stay committed and switch it up as you go, it will amaze you how you can stick to something and make the changes last.

Derek Russell is pastor of the Hillsboro Global Methodist Church. He loves Jesus, family, dogs and football.

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