Who would win in the ultimate catfight between a lion and a tiger?
We humans love to ask these kinds of questions don’t we? I once watched an entire documentary that was devoted to discovering which predator would win between a hippopotamus and a Tiger Shark (the hippo won by a slight margin).
Sometimes the questions are interesting but unanswerable, like when we compare athletes from two separate eras, such as Muhammad Ali versus Mike Tyson, or a young Michael Jordan versus a young Kobe Bryant (answers: Muhammad Ali; Kobe Bryant).
At other times though the questions are purely fanciful, like who would win between Superman and Mighty Mouse, or between Batman and the Wolverine.
The catfight question though is a legitimate one, and since a Bengal Tiger and an African Lion are roughly the same size, people throughout history have sought to answer it.
Historians record the outcomes of staged battles between African lions and Asian tigers in the Roman Coliseum, and today there has been enough observation both in the wild and in captivity to come up with a consistent answer.
One-on-one the tiger usually wins.
Despite the fact that lions seem to be built to fight, with protective manes encircling their jugulars, tigers are usually more aggressive and dominant.
The exception to this rule; however, is when the two great cats fight in teams. A pride of lions will outfight a team of tigers, because while tigers are fiercer individually, lions are better at fighting as a group.
This little piece of nature trivia has an interesting parallel for our lives doesn’t it? We are safer and more effective in teams. Even if we have a more introverted temperament (like I do), we are safer when our lives are interlocked with a band of sisters or brothers.
One of my former teachers wrote, “Lone rangers build reputations but they don’t build people or nations. That takes community.”
Let’s find, latch onto, and contribute to a people-building, nation-changing community. Let’s stay entrenched with our band of brothers or sisters, so that when our various days of testing come, we will emerge victorious.
Christian suffering is not limited to the extreme cases that we hear about in the media. Certainly, the horrific persecutions of Christians (and other religious adherents) by groups like ISIS, and the unjust imprisonment of ministers like Pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran can make the sufferings of our context seem negligible at best. However, regardless of the relative ease or discomfort of one’s position in life, Christianity contains suffering in its essence.
First and foremost, there is the unseen, internal suffering of the cross, as God inexorably calls us to ever-increasing levels of Christ-likeness. Although God loves and accepts us exactly as we are, He is committed to transforming us into His untarnished image and plan for our life. Like a battling chrysalis prior to its release from the cocoon, it is with struggle and striving that we wage solitary battles with our vulnerabilities and temptations. For some, these internal battles are only won after enduring protracted seasons of pain.
Beyond the unseen, internal sufferings of the life of Christian discipleship, we Christians are also prone to the general, universal grief and woes of humanity. Although God is our source of protection, comfort, and strength, it is our lot as humans to experience some of the sufferings of our race. If it rains on planet earth, Christians get wet too.
Finally, there are numerous cultural persecutions that accompany faith in Jesus Christ, from mild ridicule to outright hostility.
- Jesus said these persecutions are cause for rejoicing!
- His disciples said they were honored to suffer in His name.
- The Apostle Paul said that persecutions are pathways to greater levels of glory.
Regardless of the form it takes or its degree of intensity, there is a measure of persecution that accompanies our followership of Jesus Christ. It has always been this way and it always will be, and for those whose hearts have been truly captivated by Him, suffering for His cause is an honor.
We don’t need to seek it out. Indeed, we are told to live as peaceably in our world as possible (Romans 12:18), but when suffering finds us—internally or externally—let’s embrace it as true devotees of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” (Ephesians 6:24)
Granted, physical exercise is a distant second to our other priorities, such as prayer, teaching, and pastoral counseling, etc., but it is still important. Paul didn’t forbid Timothy from exercising or showing concern for his physical health, he simply said that its profit was only “little” compared to more eternal priorities and rewards (1 Timothy 4:8).
Here’s the thing though. Pastors need to stay engaged in those more eternal priorities for an entire lifetime. We can’t be burning out or quitting prematurely because we’ve let the health of our bodies lag behind our spirits.
In a 2010 New York Times article, clergy members were dubiously ranked as having higher rates of obesity, hypertension, and depression, as well as lower life expectancies, than most Americans (For the article link, click here).
I certainly understand the stresses and pressures that accompany the clergy lifestyle, and indeed it seems nearly unavoidable to remain free from some of those effects; however, one of our perks as pastors and ministry leaders—if we’ll take advantage of it—is our ability to govern our time. We have the luxury of controlling our calendars and building moderate workout routines into the rhythm of our weekly schedules, and thus reaping the benefits of both increased strength and flexibility, and decreased stress and depression.
Church Leader, we need you. This generation needs you. And we’re going to continue needing you for many years and decades to come, so let’s commit to not letting Big Macs, soft drinks, or sedentary lifestyles cut our ministries short. Let’s devote a “little” time each week to the discipline of physical fitness so that we can spend years devoting the “majority” of our time to the things that matter most.
If you want to go for it and ramp up your workout commitments, here’s the skinny (no pun intended):
- Eat 5 or 6 small meals per day, containing balanced portions of protein, vegetables, fruit, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains.
- Drink 7 or 8 glasses of water each day.
- Lift weights three days each week, working out each body part once per week (a simple weightlifting routine of this nature should only take about thirty minutes to complete, including a few minutes to stretch and warm up).
- Do twenty minutes of cardio training (running, walking, biking, etc.) three times each week. Try to use an interval approach to your cardio routines, wherein you vary your running, walking, or biking speeds (interval training boosts the metabolism and strengthens cardiovascular health better than static cardio does). By the way, if you lift weights and do your cardio on the same day, lift weights before your cardio training.
- Pick a day each week where you rest your body and engage in some guilt-free eating of your favorite high calorie foods and desserts. You will have earned it, and it won’t be terribly detrimental to your overall workout aims.