Discipleship, Insanity, and Christian Growth

I don't like exercising. 

Avoiding workouts is one of my favorite pastimes. Thankfully, my wife encourages, prods, cajoles and occasionally bribes me to look after myself. Every now and again, she approaches me with a resolution: 

We're joining 24 Hour Fitness.
We're going on a diet.
Twice a week, we're going on a walk with the kids.

7 weeks ago, she proposed something more radical: "Honey, we should do Insanity." In case you missed the infomercial, Insanity is a 60 day home workout program. It's really a 60 day pylometric-cardio-max-interval death march. 

As advertised, Insanity is hard. I threw up multiple times during the first fitness test. At times, I've been tempted to stop the DVD mid-workout. But I've kept at it, thanks to my wife. And Shuan T.

Shuan is the video instructor. He is amazing. Somehow, he's able to simultaneously perform the workout and scream incessant motivational sayings at the viewing audience. I know it sounds ridiculous, but Shuan has inspired me. He has pushed me in ways I would never have pushed myself. As a result, I'm healthier, happier, more energetic and more focused at work.

My experience with Shuan illustrates a foundational principle of discipleship. We grow as we are pushed, prompted, encouraged and motivated by others. We need more than love and acceptance; we need challenge, summons and exhortation. Paul was gentle with his converts (1 Thess 2:7-8). Yet he was not afraid to charge, exhort and admonish them (1 Thess 2:12; cf. Colossians 1:28-29). A good discipler will not only comfort, listen to, and spend time with disciples; she will also push them in faith-stretching exercises so that her disciples mature.

Tom Landry once said that, "Leadership is getting someone to do what they don't want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve." At the risk of oversimplification, I'd say that's a good description of discipleship. A good discipler is like a spiritual fitness trainer. Theoretically, every believer wants to grow. But how many are prepared to train themselves for the purpose of godliness (1 Tim 4:7-8)? A discipler pushes people to do what is unnatural and challenging in order to experience the transformation they intuitively desire.

Of course, important qualifications must be made. A discipler should be gentle, meek, gospel-focused, grace-motivated and longsuffering. He should not be surprised by the depths of indwelling sin, either in his own life or in that of his disicple. In addition, he should be very careful not to abuse his authority. But nevertheless, a good discipler must challenge people to do what is uncomfortable, so that they become the people God intends them to be.