To say that I have been less than adequate at conveying the message of Ecclesiastes upon the subject of fitness would be like describing Everest as tall or the ocean as deep or the end of the universe as far. True, if I were aiming for true, but as adequate descriptions, absurdly short of the mark. If this sounds like an apology, please accept it. If it sounds like some sort of qualifier that will excuse me of all inadequacy, then this is me begging you to allow it. But that said, give me a few minutes to try and put a button on this for us.
Guys, King Solomon came to this conclusion, and with his announcement we come limping to this brittle end of our series: The pleasures in life mock us. The quest to find meaning or satisfaction in life is like chasing the wind. So as fitness-minded individuals, how do we conclude our trilogy?
At the end of the Teacher's book, he concludes that the most important thing about life is to fear the Creator of life and to do what He says. "In old age, your body no longer serves you so well. Muscles slacken, grip weakens, joints stiffen. The shades are pulled down on the world...Hikes to the mountains are a thing of the past. Even a stroll down the road has its terrors. Your hair turns apple-blossom white, adorning a fragile and impotent matchstick body...Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends. The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it. "It's all smoke, nothing but smoke, says the Teacher. "Everything is smoke." Fear God. Do what He tells you." (Ecc 12:3-8 and 13).
What does that mean for us? (I type that with almost a smirk as if the fact that we train means we are somehow excluded or somewhat excused from Solomon's warning. Right? As if the gym - and what it stands for - has a force field around it and everything within it comes first.) But the fact is, and you and I can recite this as clearly during the first rep of each set as we can the last, that the sum of all life, and all effort, and all striving and all toil and all blood, sweat and tears will add up...to nothing. And because we all have an appointment to keep with the Creator, the best thing to do while we do our best to stay young, fit, strong and able is to fear God while we're young, fit, strong and able.
And that fear of God, that humble reverence, that blessed burden on our hearts that whispers to us between sets that there's more to this life than what we see in the mirror, should be heeded above all else. Fearing God is a good thing. About the fear that Solomon urges, Alistair Begg says, "To fear God, and to trust God, and to love God, and to know God are all the same thing. The fear that is referred to in Ecclesiastes 12 arises from the discovery of the immensity of God's love. It's the fear of a child of a father. That even though I've done so many bad things, still my father loves me and that fills me with awe. That's the fear. It's John Newton's fear. Twas grace that taught my heart to fear. And grace my fears relieved."
This is not your - kiddie pool faith and fitness, let me pose for the camera, smile and flex with a verse on my tank top - kind of truth. No, my friends, Solomon was the first and we can allow him to be the last to tell us, warn us, urge us to fear God while we can, while we're young because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. His grace teaches us to fear God more than we fear losing muscle, and to fear God more than we love to gain it. And the precious irony is that even though it's all meaningless, it doesn't mean we're not called to be good stewards of the gift of life. Like our time, our resources, and our money, the stewardship of the body is holy business that requires the grace of God and helps produce and display our fear of Him.
It's the fear of God that won't let you bring yourself to train unless you've read your Bible. It's the love of God that allows you to help those in need once you get there. It's the trust of God that compels you to be modest and humble when everything inside you wants to show off your hard work. It's the knowledge of God that comforts you when He alone knows what you're dealing with on the inside. And it's the fear of God that protects us from the enemy.
Fitness; meaningless without God and only meaningful because of Him. Grace has taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved. The world can have the gym. I want Jesus.
Did I mention Everest was tall?