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I grew up in the United States where our school year commenced in September and ended early June. That meant that we (but I’m not so sure about our parents!) enjoyed a three-month summer holiday. But though it was a long break, our cross-country coach expected us to stay in shape. The same held true when I was in university. Those who took seriously their conditioning during the break fared well when the school year resumed and the team reunited. Those who didn’t stay in shape? Well, the reunion was not so pleasant.

I remember the dreaded body fat calliper. For some reason, my “baby fat” reappeared each summer. The coach would look at me with great suspicion. I didn’t understand what had happened. After all, I had eaten from the recommended food groups: you know, milkshakes to meet the dairy requirements and potato crisps as my daily vegetable. In those days in which carbo-loading was all the rage, I figured I was well-sorted for the entire season. Go figure.

Anyway, it was hard to fake physical conditioning when all the indicators said otherwise. It became painfully clear as we commenced formal training that those workouts, which the coach had mailed (yes, mailed) to each of us all summer, were not merely suggestions. They were necessary if we would be in shape when we returned. I learned the hard way that it’s easier to get out of shape than to get in shape. Therefore, I made the necessary adjustments. Brothers and sisters, the same is true spiritually. And so, let me ask: Have you stayed spiritually fit during lockdown? I hope so. And if you haven’t, well, there is no time like the present to start working out again.

With the body of Christ unable to gather in accordance with biblical norms, we have been forced to take exceptional responsibility for our discipleship, our following of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have needed to be extra careful about our intake. We have needed to feed ourselves on God’s word and to labour more fervently in prayer. We have needed, perhaps, to apply extra effort to exercise ourselves to godliness, including guarding against ingesting those things that would hinder our spiritual health (1 Timothy 4:6–7). The day is approaching when the team will reunite and body life will resume as normal. In what kind of shape will we be?

If you have not been careful to use God’s means to sustain you during this time, let me encourage you to evaluate what you need to cut out of your life, what you need to put into your life and then put on your spiritual running shoes and get back into the race (Hebrews 12:1–2). And if you have taken heed to the words of “Coach” Jesus, keep doing so. There is always room for improvement.

I suspect that not every member will “return” as spiritually healthy as they were before our COVID-break. Not everyone will return in great shape. Some perhaps may not return at all. That will prove sad and our team will feel the effects. Nevertheless, as I learned a long time ago, getting in shape is always an option. So, if you are not in great shape, do what is necessary to lose the weight that is hindering you and is ultimately hindering the rest of the team. And if you are in good shape, come alongside and be an encouraging and helpful coach to those who need some extra attention. After all, we are in this together.

Training with you,