It was early, the house was dark and still. The silence was broken by the sound of steaming and sputtering as the last drops of coffee were brewed; the warm aroma filled the air. Kneeling in front of my home altar, I offered to God my day and thanked Him for all of the great gifts He has bestowed on me, especially my family.
Dragging myself off my knees, I poured a cup of piping hot coffee and slid down in my recliner, as had become my custom, to open up Scripture and quiet my thoughts in order to listen for what God was going to tell me that day.
I opened my Bible using my bookmark where I had left off the previous day and read:
Now at Lystra there was a man sitting, who could not use his feet; he was a cripple from birth, who had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking; and Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and walked (Acts 14; 8-10).
When reading Scripture, it’s helpful to know the back story of what you are reading, though God has grabbed me in spite of my biblical illiteracy on many occasions. Prior to this verse, Paul, who had been formerly named Saul and was an astute Jew who was well known for his sharp intellect and understanding of the Jewish Law, had an encounter with Christ.
Christians feared Saul as he was notorious for pursuing them in order to serve them a death penalty for their beliefs. Paul’s hands were still stained with the blood of the first martyr, St. Stephen, whom he had stoned to death when Jesus claimed him as his own. Based on this encounter, Saul became Paul, changed directions, was converted, and believed. And with the same zeal he possessed for persecuting Christians, he began telling everyone who would listen that he had encountered the living God, the Messiah. This is where this verse picks up… entering the city of Lystra to proclaim the Good News of Jesus.
When I read about the crippled man who was sitting as Paul walked by, I could relate. This is me I thought… this is you. Crippled. How often have we found ourselves sitting day in and day out only considering our limitations, looking inward rather than upward? We can tend towards depression, self-pity, doubt, fear, and anxiety. We have bought into the lie that we don’t have what it takes; we are weak and small, and not man enough. This lie from the evil one often cripples us from being great.
We are blinded by our limitations, crippled by fear. We know it would be good for us to get in shape, but look at all of the obstacles in our way… time, money, energy, etc. The list can get long and daunting, making us succumb to the weight of doubt. But I’m here to tell you, “Stand up on your feet.”
You do have what it takes, you can go beyond what you believe your limitations are. It involves a choice, an intentional decision to incrementally be better than you were yesterday. You may not have the strength, but He does, the one whom gives us our very breath.
There is a trap though when we finally do stand up and refuse to be crippled any longer. How easily our eyes can be diverted from the true prize. The next lines in Scripture read:
And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices saying in Lycao’nian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, because he was the chief speaker, they called Hermes” (Acts 14; 11-12).
The people of Lystra immediately clung to Paul and Barnabas and wanted to worship them because of the miraculous change which they had witnessed. This temptation is all too real for those who have made strides in self-mastery.
Maybe you have lost 30 or 40 pounds, you are wearing a pants size that you never thought you would see again, or have more energy than you can remember. The trap is for us to cling to the workout or the diet plan as our savior, rather than to the one for whom we labor. St. Augustine once said “Seek what you seek, but remember that it is not where you seek it.” Our desires to seek are good, but we must be careful where we try to find fulfillment for those desires.
This worshipping of the golden calf, this clinging to the tool is often too common in fitness circles, and is prevalent in many CrossFit communities. Due to the success of athletes and the dramatic change in their fitness capacity, they can allow their entire identity to be conformed to the sport. They cease claiming the title “sons of God,” and become rather “Cossfitters.” The gym becomes their church, the members their family. How easily and blindly one can make this change!
We can begin to worship what has helped us gain discipline, whether that be the workout or the diet plan, and forget why we are making strides towards self-mastery. We easily forget that our bodies, our lives, even the very breath we take are gifts from the only one who can truly satisfy.
It’s important to keep in mind that these successes at the gym or the great discipline that we acquire by intentional living are opportunities to reclaim order in our lives so we can encounter Christ.
Wherever you are in your journey, whether you are the cripple begging for alms, or well on your way to intentional living, I encourage you to keep your eyes on Christ and He will lead you to greatness. All for His glory and honor!