He tried to trick me. I caught him. He added five pounds to the weight I was trying to lift. I pretended that I didn’t see it and promptly changed it back. Then I proceeded to do the curls on the machine. That’s what I like about Arthur. He is always pushing me to do better. He challenges me to be the best I can be. Sometimes it is done in subtle, sneaky ways. Other times, he comes right out and tells me he expects more of me.
Arthur is my workout buddy. He and I have been working out together for the last few years. I always joke that when people see us at the gym, the image of Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie “Twins” comes to mind. I had him stand up in church one time. I asked people if they could tell the two of us were working out together. People broke out in laughter. They thought I was kidding.
I have to tell you that I often settle for less. I don’t push myself as hard as I should, especially when Arthur isn’t there. I have to confess that I’m just a little lazy. I even quoted my cardiologist in defense of my unwillingness to try something. I said “The doctor told me I shouldn’t do this.” Which was a partial truth that allowed me to skip out on a heavier workout. I know my limitations but I also make excuses.
The truth is that you don’t have to be at the gym to make excuses for not trying your hardest. Sometimes we do that in our Christian walk. We make up reasons for doing or not doing something. We even throw out verses of scripture to legitimize our excuses. Of course, they are often taken out of context. We cherry pick the verse to back us up and make us sound more righteous. That is the easy way.
What we really need to do is challenge ourselves. We need to find a prayer partner. We need someone in our spiritual life like Arthur. We need someone who can do for us what he does for me at the gym. Whether it is regularly praying together or studying the scriptures together, we need someone to hold us accountable in our walk with Christ. We need to find someone who will encourage us to stay faithful.
That is what Jesus did. He called 12 disciples to walk with him. They shared life and truth together. As you read their story in the Gospels, you notice right away that they often tried to take the easy way out of situations. When they did that, Jesus challenged them. Why? He wanted them to be the very best leaders they could be. After all, he was going to turn over the keys to the kingdom of God to them. They had to be prepared.
They’ve passed on that calling to us today. It is a daunting task. Yet when we do it together, encouraging one another, the way is much more manageable. The weight seems less and the workout more satisfying. So don’t go it alone. Find a friend and praise God together.
The Rev. Cal Lord is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Westerly.