Since then, I’ve changed my priorities somewhat. I still try to spend a little time exercising; but suffice it to say that I long ago learned to understand the significance of what the Apostle Paul told young Timothy (in I Timothy 4:8 NET):
"physical exercise has some value, but godliness is valuable in every way. It holds promise for the present life and for the life to come."
Maybe that is why, while I still try to exercise these days for the sake of staying in shape, I have nonetheless come to accept the wisdom proffered by the learned King Solomon, who said (in Proverbs 20:29):
“The glory of young men is their strength, but gray hair is the splendor of the old.”
Part of that wisdom is the recognition that exercising does not have to entail my forever trying to set some new personal best at the bench press or on the squat rack. Rather, moderation has now become the rule! In regards to such factors as the amount of weight handled, the number of sets and reps, allowance for proper rest, etc…, slow and steady seems to be the best rule, especially for someone in his mid-fifties.
I have also learned the value of using tools to aid me in my exercise. As a young man, I was a purist in the gym. I never wore braces, straps, or other such devices, as I saw this as cheating. Not anymore! If something will assist me in the execution of an exercise, I will employ it. This brings me to my point…
I recently acquired a set of wrist straps that have within them an imbedded metal hook. As the attached picture demonstrates, the hook is of great assistance when performing exercises in the gym that require the use of the hand to grip a bar for rowing, chinning, or other such pulling exercises.
You see, the problem I face, like so many, is that larger muscles can handle greater strain than smaller ones. Thus, the muscles of the back can handle so much more weight resistance than the muscles of the forearms. Hence, the amount of weight individuals can do in a given back exercise if often limited to what they can hold onto with their hands.
But with the introduction of hooked wrist straps into the equation, that all changes! Now, the person who is exercising is able to stimulate the larger muscle irrespective of the limits of the smaller ones.
As I have reflected on this simple principle, I have come to see my wrist straps as a metaphor for prayer. Like every other person I know, in the living out of my life, I am called upon to bear up under a certain load. And while it pains me to admit it, my own strength is also insufficient for the handling of this load.
But, enter the power of prayer; and suddenly, I find myself enabled in all sorts of new ways! I find that, through the added empowerment of prayer, I can handle a far bigger load. In short, I can get a grip! I can hold on! I can pull through! And for that, I am expressly thankful!
In Psalm 81, David testifies that he cried out to the Lord; and God rescued him by setting his hands free and lifting the burden from his shoulders that he was carrying! I believe God still works this way. And I believe Jesus challenges us to do the same as David did. for in the New Testament Gospel of Matthew (11:28-30), Jesus Christ lays down this offer:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
And the same Jesus Who said that also said this (in the New Testament Gospel of Luke 11:9-10):
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
It is little wonder, then, that the Apostle Paul felt led to add these words later in the New Testament (Philippians 4:13 KJV): “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me!”
Paul had taken Jesus up on those promises. And Jesus had delivered! But the really good news is that what Jesus promised and did for Paul, He also promises and does for us!
I leave you with these immortal words penned by the hymn writer Johnson Oatman Jr. nearly one hundred and twenty years ago, particularly the underlined portions:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.
When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings - money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.
So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.