I remember the first time I experienced the wonder of “progressive resistance” and the impact it can have on the human body. I was working at a summer camp and once or twice a week would find myself in the basement of a building with rafters that were just the right height to jump up and hang on. The first week, I tried to do a pull up and was able to eke out one or two; the next week I was surprised to discover I could do a few more. By the end the summer, I could easily do a dozen without breaking a sweat.
Progressive resistance works, in terms of athletic training, by pushing the body just beyond its physical limitations. The heavier the weights, the longer the run, the more intense the training, and the body is forced to adjust to a new level of performance. Athletes have understood the principle of progressive resistance for thousands of years. It’s the reason the greatest athletes never stop pushing themselves to excel.
What any elite athlete will tell you is that they didn’t get there overnight. There was a time when they, too, were just starting out.
Jesus once said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much…” (Luke 16:10). In other words, there is a spiritual parallel to the idea of progressive resistance. Those who are faithful in the little tasks and responsibilities that come along are often trusted with more. The very best disciples and the most effective leaders I have ever known have one thing in common – no task is too small and no challenge too great when done in faith. Typically, these folks don’t seek the spotlight – but after years of faithful service in the “small” things, the mantle of leadership and authority often finds them.
Christian discipleship, like the race the Apostle Paul sometimes compared it to, is less like a sprint and more like a marathon. I believe every day brings lots of little opportunities to be faithful to God. How we live and love and give to others matters to God. Every time we decide to be faithful… every time we take the more difficult road… every time we push ourselves to do something we’ve never done before… we grow a little bit more in spiritual maturity and endurance.
The author of Hebrews advises us to “run with perseverance the race set before” and “to keep our eyes on Jesus.” We also read in Hebrews 12:11-13, “Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.”
God is calling you to a life of faithfulness – first in the small things. What is God calling you to do today?