Plateau Busters

Every January, a new schlew of fitness videos hit the market to target everyone motivated by New Year’s resolutions. I love this time of year because I take the opportunity to stock up on the new releases made by some of my favorite fitness gurus. One of the videos I purchased promised to serve as a plateau-buster. “Plateau” is a dreaded word in the fitness industry. You see, the body is a very adaptable specimen. When you begin a workout program, one of the first things you notice (besides the fact that you are terribly out of shape) is sore muscles. Ah yes, the morning after will bring much pain to ordinary activities such as going down stairs and sitting on the toilet. In a sick way, I like this pain because it is an indicator that my workout is in fact working. And if you have the fortitude to continue with the program, you will indeed see the results. You will lose weight (if needed) and become stronger. But a funny thing happens. You might be inspired by the effects you are experiencing; so you really make the lifestyle changes needed to continue in physical fitness. Maybe you have a goal weight, clothing size, or bench press amount to attain. So, you chug along doing your same workout everyday, and possibly even eating healthier. But if this continues, you will come to find that your body adapts so well to the new routine that it becomes more efficient in performing these same activities. It therefore does not need to exert as much energy as it did in the beginning. Your body hits a plateau. Maybe you are where you want to be physically when this happens. But those of us who care about fitness as a lifestyle may be less concerned with what the scale says, and more motivated to keep our bodies challenged to ever increase in its fitness potential. I think that mistakenly, we may look at the Christian life as though we can hit a plateau—and we think that is a good thing. In the beginning of our walk, we may have aspirations to reach a level of Christian maturity where we have shed some of the sins that shame us. There may be a few doctrines we want to nail down and some loved ones to evangelize, along with a particular setting on the moral compass that we aspire to reach. Once we get there, we think that the cruise control will set in, and we can be content. But as we embark on the pilgrim’s progress, we will find that sanctification is nothing like this. There is no plateau in the Christian life. We are either growing closer to Christ’s likeness, or we are falling away. I was reminded of this as I was reading Hebrews 5:11-14: About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. While this passage should incite a fearful warning to evaluate our own sanctification, I also find much comfort in the fact that we will always be growing in our knowledge of the Lord. His Word is able to provide both milk for the babe in Christ, as well as strong meat for the mature. In reality, the plateau is a bit of a myth in fitness as well. As your body adapts to your workout routine, you inevitably have to challenge yourself in new ways to maintain the level of physical fitness that your body has reached. One of the biggest ways to bust through a fitness-plateau is muscle confusion. Our muscles become accustomed to repetitively going through the same exercises; so it is good to change things up a bit. Fresh routines can challenge them in new ways, surprising the body and forcing it to adapt. In the verses above, one of the goals in spiritual maturity is discernment. The author of Hebrews exhorts us to be trained by constant conditioning to develop this ability to discern good from evil. Arthur Pink explains in his commentary that “it is only by the constant and assiduous exercise of minds upon spiritual things, by diligent study of the Word, by daily meditation thereon, by the exercise of faith therein, by earnestly supplicating the Spirit for light, that we acquire the all important discernment to distinguish between good and evil, Truth and error” (270). While reading this, I can’t help but think of how God shakes things up a bit for us in our life experiences. As we are engaged in these exercises, God providentially places us in situations that shock our minds and hearts, forcing us to adapt. Of course, his Spirit is with us, guiding and transforming us through this process. It is in fact by depending on Him that we do adapt, reaching more mature spiritual fitness. It’s all so awesome, how God uses his Word, his Spirit, and his means of grace in worship all to nourish us and grow us in godliness. And I don’t even have to wait until the first of the year for new workouts!