>Exercising Faith for the Future…a speech given at the Tenth Annivesaray Celebration Dinner of Grace International School, April 30, 2009.
It is my privilege to speak to the second half of the 10th Year Anniversary Theme: Faith for the Future. Believe it or not this second part of the theme brought to mind my work these past two years of disciplining my body in exercise. In fact this part of the theme became crystal clear thinking about my exercise regiment.
I find that any good derived from exercise, and the words still out on that one as far as I’m concerned, is being worked out in the actualities. In other words, growth and improvement happens because muscles, cardio and stretching are pushed through very real pain. I can remember the first couple days of exercise two years ago as if it were yesterday. Throughout the first couple sessions I felt so sick to my stomach I was in the bathroom working out more there than I was doing an actual workout. Some might even call my bathroom “exercises” a form of working out…I sure thought it was. At the end of the first couple sessions I couldn’t stand in the shower or raise my arms to bathe myself. I just had to sit there and let the water pour over me. A couple times early on I felt like I was going to die. Faith for the future for Grace is going to come in very similar ways…it’s going to be worked out in our community through the actualities and even sometimes through periods of desolation. Death will not be physical but it could be the death of an idea, a desire, a want or even a dream that becomes a wonderful seedbed for new life to spring forth…Faith for our Future.
I have to tell you a funny story. If this was a sermon this would definitely be the illustration…Jullian, a friend and school colleague came into my office yesterday to share how he had made a cultural blunder. He described how his organization had asked him to bring in some flowers for the school to celebrate our school’s 10th Year Anniversary and show the organization’s appreciation. In typical male fashion he didn’t want to buy the “little” basket of flowers. Oh no, he had to go out and find the biggest flower arrangement possible. So he goes to the market and he sees this fantastic huge flower arrangement and is so proud that the size of the arrangement will reflect his organizations huge appreciation for Grace. He stuffs the thing in the back of his truck and brings the arrangement into his house where a Thai student from Grace says, “Who died?” You see Jullian bought a wreath given when someone dies. I asked if he would loan it to me as I thought it would make a wonderful illustration for this point on death and how death can serve as a seedbed for Faith for the Future. He said, “No, I went out and bought a basket and made a new floral arrangement.” You’ll want to stop by the office and check out his flower arranging skills. Personally I want to thank him for bringing so much laughter into my world as I was preparing this talk on this very point.
I can tell you right now I’ve never felt so close to God as I did in those first months of starting to exercise. I have never prayed so much or had so many times of sweet or was that sweat communion. I remember telling God if you just get me through this set I’ll be OK. I never counted so carefully in all my life so as not to do a single extra lift, stretch, peddle, or stride. I literally looked at some of the pieces of equipment as torture chambers and would frequently think, “I am paying for this?” The challenge I was facing in exercise was bringing me into a deeper relation with God. This may sound strange but at times I remember weeping with such a keen sense of God’s presence. A trust was emerging which dared to dream that He was exercising right there with me. Some say it’s a foxhole conversion where they met God. I was meeting God afresh and anew every single time I exercised. What I came to slowly realize was that God was making it possible for all that I was coming up against in those early months of exercise was actually developing my faith for future physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental challenges. Just like grapes when crushed or squeezed become wine, Faith for the Future is going to come through squeezing and even crushing circumstances or situations. When a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it’s no longer alone remaining a single seed, instead it produces many seeds. Faith for the Future comes from a trust which never dreams that Christ will not stand by us. The root of our Faith for the Future is in knowing God and being in relationship with Him.
Those first several months of exercise were filled with trusting God to do something I didn’t think possible. A vigorous and unutterable confidence and I mean unspeakable that is unless you count dry heaves as utterances, kind of trust in God that went way beyond commonsense ways. In fact I might go as far as saying that what was being accomplished was almost supernatural. You see during the summer before school started two years ago a “revelation sense” came over me about starting an exercise regiment in August 2007. In a similar way Faith for the Future is going to come from a vigorous confidence and unutterable trust in God in the face of the impossible odds and more than likely it is not going to come from commonsense ways but from revelation sense and possibly even supernatural ways.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in these early months of exercise there was this raging conflict going on in my mind. It went something like this…to get out of bed…or to stay in bed. Thankfully most days, “get out of bed” won. Conflict is very much a place where Faith for the Future will be tested. In the same way that “get out of bed” won, Faith for the Future wins or can only fully be realized and become a corporate community possession as we go through conflict.
For weeks on end exercise was a huge trial. It was like every exercise session was an ordeal filled with hardship, pain, suffering, misery and distress. You see it had been way too many years to count since I did any form of real exercise other than moving a spoon or fork from my plate to my mouth. What I discovered through the journey was that I had to experience all this from the trials before the benefit of exercise was actual…something real and definite for me. Faith for the Future will come to us from the trials before it is actual, real and definite.
Slowly I’ve been coming to realize that out of discipline I am making forward progress and can now actually stand and bathe myself after a workout. Now that’s progress. I no longer consider the same pieces of equipment as torture chambers. I learned that my physical well being was coming from fighting trim. Where does faith for the future come from for Grace? It will come out of discipline…a discipline to do the will of the Father…a fighting trim spiritual posture we will be able to take in the coming years.
There’s a great deal I could tell you about what is being produced from my exercise regiment but instead because time is running short I’d like to share with you what I believe my exercise has taught me that Faith for the Future will accomplish as well if we allow it to bear the fruit it’s intended to produce. Faith for the Future will not necessarily know where it is being led but it will know who is leading, it will give us a mental poise in the midst of the challenges we face along the way, it will make the impossible possible, it will create boundlessness, it will prepare us to do what we’re called to do, it will provide a way when there doesn’t seem to be one, it will lead us through and even around barriers and obstacles, it will make possible not a life of mounting up with wings, but a life of walking and not fainting, it will keep us from being shipwrecked, it will help us attain Christ-like character, it will create benefit for others, it will help us to become the hands and feet of God, it will make possible stepping out where we don’t see the next step, it will give us the ability to face anything we might have to face without wavering, we’ll be able to see new opportunities, and it will produce even more faith and love knowing the One who is leading.
May the Lord bless us as we exercise our Faith for the Future!