In exercise physiology, there's an undisputed, irrefutable, underlying principle. It doesn't matter whether you're an old-school lifter, avid runner, swimmer, weekend warrior in crossfit or otherwise, here it is: the body will only change according to the level at which it is stressed. The principle is called the "overload principle." Speaking as a one-time weightlifter - from the time you pick up a weight - do more today than you did yesterday, and you're more likely to change. Plainly said, make an adjustment, alter the environment, shock and confuse the system (and no, Tony Horton didn't invent that) but something to cause you - to force you - to do just a little bit more to achieve the same or greater output. That's the principle of overload. If you're able to apply it, it's a wonderful gift. The fact that I can't apply it any longer I hope doesn't disqualify me from writing about it.
I thought about the overload principle when Pastor Shawn Thornton of Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village told us his simple prayer that he's prayed everyday for nearly 40 years. "God, let me be more like Jesus today than I was yesterday. Amen." What a simple prayer, right? But doesn't that sum up the journey? Living and loving like Jesus as much as another day will allow. Of course, the pastor admitted - like Paul - we don't always do that. Some weeks it's 2 steps forward, 3 steps back.
As the former fitness director for Joe Weider at Muscle & Fitness Magazine, men from all around the world would write to me and ask how they can get 18-inch arms. My simple answer? Train for the 20-inch variety. Then I'd give them strategies to accomplish it. Basically, they had to train beyond their goal in order to achieve their goal. Otherwise, they'd always fall short. And even if they achieved their objective, to maintain it, they'd have to apply the principle of overload again, and again, and again, forever. I am willing to bet that the majority of guys that wanted nothing more than to have 18-inch arms back in 1998 either never got there, never stayed there or they're still trying. I'm not knocking them, I represent them.
I say all of that because as I get older, and the more mistakes I make and the more ways I know I've failed the Lord, the more I realize that it's the Holy Spirit that anoints our wounds and encourages us and challenges us, reminds, convicts, and leads us each and every single day. The old gospel hymn, "If ever I've loved Thee, My Jesus tis now" can be new each day. And the fact that God sees Jesus when He looks at us and not our sin, well, that's the fuel, the means, the motivation, the power by which we apply the overload principle to our spiritual lives. If you're a weightlifter, the excellent motivator to hit the gym again today is new muscle. For sinners, the motivator to hit our knees each day is new mercy.
God, let me be, let me speak, let me listen, let me pray, let me think, let me react, let me walk, let me look more like Jesus today than I did yesterday. Thankfully, gracefully, unlike our physical goals that disappear with time, the closer we get to glory, the more His goal for us - to be just like Jesus - is coming true.
- Jimmy Peña