October of 2008 may well be one of the most painful moments of my life. I have experienced the pain of injury, heartbreak, loss of a loved one, and I have experienced people letting me down. That month, however, provided a turning point for me. It was then that I learned the truth behind an old adage I had heard for years: Change occurs when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”
What happened in October of 2008 to bring this lesson to life, you ask? I got a letter in the mail. Nope, not a “Dear John” letter. This was something even worse. I got a “we are unable to insure you because you are too fat” letter in the mail. Some of you will read that and think that I am both overreacting to that letter and, in so doing, minimizing the pain associated with the other aforementioned forms of hurt. I assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.
Let me explain. For most of my life, I have struggled with my weight. Before October 2008 I was always able to attribute it to being “big-boned.” (Yeah, I am still trying to get a doctor to agree with me on that one too.) That letter came at a time when our family was already going through some difficulty, and it literally felt like adding insult to injury.
Just a few short months before this, my mother-in-law was tragically killed in an auto accident. My three older children were supposed to be in the car with her at the time of the accident, but a last minute miracle orchestrated by God Himself prevented them from going home with her that day. My wife and I were in a state of grief and rejoicing simultaneously. You want to talk about not knowing if we were going or coming, that was a desperate time for us. One of us would rejoice while the other was grieving. It was rough. I was in a low spot in my grief when I received that rejection letter. It hit me like a ton of bricks (which is apparently what the insurance company thought I weighed when they refused to insure me).
Like men tend to do, I moped around for a while about being rejected. Also, like most men tend to do, I began to find excuses as to why I was obese: my family is obese, it’s a genetic thing, I’m just “big-boned,” muscle weighs more than fat, and a plethora of other excuses. NONE of those excuses changed the reality, however, that in the eyes of the authority (insurance company) I was obese and uninsurable.
I thought things were pretty rough until Christmas of that year. Everything changed on Christmas morning (that sounds like a GREAT sermon title, but I’ll save that for another time). My wife and I have often given one another things for Christmas that we need. I know, some of you will debate that and say that we should get things we want for Christmas, but it’s what we do (and it’s what the Lord did). Anyway, she gave me what she thought I needed that year: a gym membership. (Note to self: perhaps this was retribution for the years where I gave her a waffle iron for Christmas or the trash can or the carpet steam cleaner or the pot holders or the 9MM handgun for Mother’s Day).
I no longer had one of my excuses: “I would work out and be healthier, but I just don’t have the opportunity or the place.” She removed that excuse. I soon found another: “I don’t have the time.” It was then that she looked at me so sweetly, yet challengingly, and told me to stop making excuses and make it happen. JUST DO IT! Stop whining and making excuses. Just do it! (That might make a GREAT slogan for some company one day).
The pain of remaining obese was greater for me than the pain of getting up early enough to go to the gym. So guess what I did? I got up and went to the gym! Every. Single. Day. Crazy thing about that? Within a 3 month time period, the EXACT SAME insurance company who would not insure me, wrote a policy on my family and me because I was within their acceptable limits! That did not happen overnight. It happened because I learned the value of one key word: DISCIPLINE!
Here’s what is even crazier: the same discipline that led me to accomplish what I now see as relatively small goal, has led me to do some things that I NEVER dreamed to be possible. I have had the privilege to travel the country and speak in school assemblies and share the Gospel in churches using feats of strength. That’s crazy! An obese kid from east Texas travels the country using feats of strength to encourage students! How does it happen? DISCIPLINE!
The 3 questions I get most often when doing feats of strength are:
- Are you crazy?
- How long did you train to be able to that?
- What made you start doing feats of strength?
The first question is somewhat funny. It is normally asked immediately following me putting my head through 10” of concrete or after a concrete block is broken with a sledgehammer on my chest/stomach while I am under a bed of nails.
The second question is fun to answer, because many who ask assume that I have always trained. The reality is that now I have been training over 5 years, but when I did my first feat of strength I had only been training about 5 months. Crazy good results come with DISCIPLINE after just a short time. I mean think about it, Basic Military Training only lasts 6 to 13 weeks depending on the branch of service, and I think you would agree that our soldier, sailors, marines, airman, and coast guardsmen are disciplined when they return home from Basic Military Training.
The third question also presents a fun and challenging answer. I saw what just a little bit of DISCIPLINE brought about in my life. I decided to see what would happen if I fully committed to be DISCIPLINED in my body. Now, over 5 years into this, I have been privileged to do some crazy things as a result of DISCIPLINE.
In order for us to be the champions that God desires us to be in our Life Groups, we MUST approach them with even greater DISCIPLINE than that which an athlete trains his body because the reward is far greater than that an athlete receives (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). It means weMUST be DISCIPLINED about our own walk with Christ. It means we MUST be DISCIPLINED in our preparations. It means we MUST be DISCIPLINED in our attendance. It means we MUST be DISCIPLINED in our follow-up with guests. It means we MUST be DISCIPLINED in our efforts to contact and connect with those on our rolls. It means we MUST be DISCIPLINED in order to reach more people with the Gospel!
Recently I was in the gym lifting, and I hit a new personal record on a number of lifts. Someone asked me if I only wanted to lift more so that I could say I lifted more. Absolutely not! I love lifting, but I know that when I hit new personal records it means a couple of things: I am getting better and I will be able to do more of the feats of strength to reach more people. The same is true in our Life Groups. When we begin to live a life of DISCIPLINE as Life Group leaders, we do not simply reach more students so we can say we reached more students. NO! We reach more students so that they too might come to know Christ! The end goal of our discipline is not be champions for ourselves, but rather to be champions for the Kingdom of God! With that in mind, let’s go be CHAMPIONS today!