Most pastors have hobbies, hobbies that I myself am simply not mentally and emotionally cut out for.
Chief among those, obviously, is golf. I play at golf (no, that is not a grammatical error) maybe once a year, mostly because it is a game that requires a person to slow down, breathe calmly and swing smoothly, while I am generally strung up as tight as a violin string, and spin at 78 RPMs on life's 33 RPM turntable.
Fishing is about the same; the idea of sitting calmly for hours hoping that some unseen fish (if there are even any down there) will find my worm irresistible is not generally for me. I have been tentatively invited to go spearfishing, though, and that is definitely an offer I will accept.
Anyway, 13 or 14 years ago, I finally picked up a hobby, namely powerlifting. And the moment I found myself under a heavy weight with only two options, push it up or get squished and maybe die, I was hooked. It is a pretty intense sport and, unlike golf, requires grunting rather than whispering, which is great by me. Surprisingly, though, it also requires a great deal of study. I now know more about foods, supplements and body mechanics than I ever thought possible.
Enter fast-twitch versus slow-twitch muscle fibers.
The bench press is my chosen specialty. I have won a few contests along the way (and gotten destroyed in others) and hit an all-time personal one-rep max lift of 355 pounds a few years ago. I was heavier then, around 212 pounds; I have now cut down to 196 pounds, so my top end is a bit weaker.
Normally, I can lift somewhere between 315 and 335 pounds. And that kind of lifting requires fast-twitch muscle fibers. Those are the fibers that allow a person to expend one huge burst of energy to do one big, quick thing. But at least one day a week, I change my lifting style and do as many reps as possible of 225 pounds.
A couple of hours ago, I did 23 reps of 225 pounds. And that kind of lifting requires help from the other kind of muscle fibers: slow twitch. Those are the muscle fibers that help a person to do something over a longer period of time. You can think of them as the endurance fibers. I do my best to train both types; I do not want to be weak, nor do I want to give out quickly.
In 606 B.C., a boy likely of about 15 years old or less was taken into captivity in Babylon. His name was Daniel, and we learn about him in the book of the Bible that bears his name. Daniel 1:21 tells us, "And Daniel continued [meaning he continued in service] even unto the first year of king Cyrus." Daniel 10:1 tells us that he was still alive in the third year of Cyrus. In other words, Daniel lived right and served God faithfully for well over 70 years. And he did so in spite of being taken captive into a strange land, being made a eunuch (yikes!), being threatened with death by Nebuchadnezzar, being targeted by jealous political leaders and being cast into a den of lions. Daniel very clearly developed some pretty stout spiritual slow-twitch muscle fibers.
At 17, Joseph was thrown into a pit by his own brothers, who then, a few hours later, sold him into slavery. He ended up in Egypt, where Mrs. Potiphar, whose sexual advances he had spurned, falsely accused him of rape. He was then thrown into prison. But he lived right and kept on going for God the entire time, and 22 years later, he was second in command of Egypt and his brothers were bowing before him. Once again, those are some pretty stout spiritual slow-twitch muscle fibers.
God set aside Jeremiah from the womb to serve him as a prophet. When he grew up and began that ministry, he did so during the dying days of the kingdom of Judah. Their disobedience against God had made God determine to send Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians against them. Jeremiah (bless his heart) was tasked with telling the people that they were going to lose the war and be taken into captivity. As you might imagine, this did not endear him to anyone. He quickly became public enemy No. 1, was accused of treason multiple times, was thrown into a miry dungeon pit and at one point got so depressed that he said some pretty angry things to God himself. And yet he served God faithfully through it all for somewhere around 63 years. Spiritual slow-twitch muscle fibers, indeed.
If you look through Scripture at servants of God who had an easy road, you will be looking for a long time and largely in vain. They would have been utterly bewildered by the modern prosperity gospel; a good day for them was a day they managed not to get stoned or thrown into prison. But in spite of difficulties, most all of them persevered and could say with Paul, "I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith."
Your goal as a believer in and a servant of Jesus Christ should not just be to quickly do some big, impressive (fast-twitch) thing. It should be to develop such spiritual endurance that you are still standing and serving next week, next month, next year, next decade, all the way until your last breath. Absolutely any believer can start living right and serving the Lord; there is nothing really special about that at all. But those who really want to make a difference will keep going through disappointments and hurt feelings and trials and loss and even just through the diminishing of interest that any long-term thing tends to eventually generate.
If you are still breathing, keep pushing.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at wordofhismouth.com. Email him at [email protected].