Theological Fitness

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Last year, I was asked to do something I am uncomfortable with. For the first time as a speaker, I was asked to open a conference with my testimony. Sure, I know how a testimony is supposed to go. It begins with good intentions, introduces a point where major drama entered our lives, and ends with how we overcame the odds, giving all the glory to God, of course. I certainly had all of these elements to share. But I couldn’t help but feel a little artificially self-important stepping in front of all these women to tell them my testimony.

I felt silly preparing such a thing. In fact, there I was on the plane headed for Texas still wondering what I was going to share about myself for forty-five minutes that evening. I just wanted to talk about my message on perseverance from the sermon-letter to the Hebrews. I wanted to talk about the idea that while we know faith is a gift from God who is faithful, it is a fighting grace.

The preacher to the Hebrews even uses metaphors of marathon runners, gymnasts, and Grecian Olympic fighters to illustrate the fighting faith that we need to persevere to the end. After delivering a strong theology of Christ as the ultimate prophet, priest, and king, he issues a command for perseverance in Hebrews 10:23, which reads, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” We are exhorted to hold tight to God’s promises which are fulfilled in the person and work of Christ. We are called to cling to these promises by faith until we see Christ by sight.

So I decided to gear my testimony with an angle explaining how I was led to write about the kind of mentality we see in the sermon-letter to the Hebrews.

I was raised with a fighting mentality. My childhood was a bit atypical. I had a karate studio in my house. That’s right—my dad, who was also a Secret Service agent, taught martial arts from our home. My mother taught aerobics classes to the neighbors in the karate studio until she eventually opened up a gym downtown. Both parents valued an active lifestyle. I remember the neighborhood kids joining in the fun obstacle courses my dad would make for us to race in the backyard. Dad would time us as we raced through it, telling my brother and me after each run that we had beat the other by just one second. It wasn’t until my adult years that I realized dad had made that up just to get us to run faster in the next round.

But this wasn’t merely a physical pursuit; it was a way of thinking. Dad taught us how to be good observers, making eye contact, noticing the exit routes in case of an emergency, and always thinking in terms of self-defense and helping others. We were taught to survey our inventory, so that we would see what tools we had to help us escape, or to fight if needed. This way of thinking, and the many exercises he trained us in to develop it, taught us that perseverance is not passive. It is something you have to prepare for, fight for, and train for repetitively.

As I gave my testimony, I explained how my upbringing helped me make connections with the fighting faith we are called to in Hebrews. Having a confession is not enough—we must hold fast to it. And that takes conditioning. We need theological fitness in the Christian life of faith and obedience. Theological fitness refers to that persistent fight to exercise our faith by actively engaging in the gospel truth revealed in God’s Word. Every Christian will persevere, but whatever stage of the race we may find ourselves in, we respond to our trials, triumphs, and ordinary circumstances according to what we believe to be true about God and His work. One thing is for sure: we cannot hold fast to a confession that we know little about. A good servant of Jesus Christ is trained in the Word of the faith. This takes a fighting mentality.

Although I may feel like I’m getting old, Lord willing, I still have a long way to go. I felt presumptuous getting in front of those women and giving my testimony on the Christian life. But I did have something to share about what I want my testimony to be. I want my testimony to be in that cloud of witnesses that we see in Hebrews 11:

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (vv. 13–16)

I don’t want my testimony to be some book I wrote. I don’t even want my testimony to be how good a wife or mother I am, or how I overcame a particular adversity in my life. I want my testimony to be, “She made it to the new heavens and the new earth, and she helped encourage and equip people along the way.” I have to look to Christ and run with Spirit-enabled endurance to do that (Heb. 12:1–2). Right now, I am just in the race. At the end of the race, I want to hear, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.”

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