The Treadmill Christian

Treadmill Living?

Did you ever notice the number of old used treadmills for sale? If you ever had one of those things, you might have used it very regularly for quite a while. It sure made you feel better, more muscle tone, better heart beat and more energy. Then after a while, you used it less, as your interest turned to other things. When you realized it didn’t get you anywhere, your use of it really tapered off, until perhaps you gave it up? Unused and discarded treadmills can be found in almost every town; you see lots of them advertised in the daily newspaper– “hardly ever used,” they say.

It reminds me of what often happens in the life of many a Christian. Many start off the Christian journey by giving their lives to Jesus, even fervently committing themselves to Him. The first few months, or even years, start with a bang: lots of life, lots of enthusiasm, lots of excitement, doing things for the Lord and being really turned on by it all. Then for some reason, the “bloom comes off the rose.” Other legitimate things creep in. Good things, like boyfriends, girlfriends, marriage, a career, perhaps children or responsibilities that are so legitimate and necessary. They take precedence over the “Christian things” that first swept us off our feet.

Then disaster strikes. We might consider trying to “get closer to the Lord,” so that “He might be the Lord of our lives,” again. Or, perhaps a good fiery sermon brings us up short, convicting us of the loss of our first love, and we will rededicate our lives to Him, again. With every good intention we might try to fortify our resolve to do better by attending a course on “How to Live the Christian Life.” Maybe a Bible study grabs our attention and fires us up again.

Off we go to a weekend retreat, and we ever really alive when we get home! We tell everybody about it, and there is no doubt in our minds that our lives have been fired up again to really live for God. Soon we are right back where we started, lethargic, busy with other things and defeated again.

Some try the accountability route. That’s where we make ourselves accountable to other people to keep us disciplined and on track with our dedication. We resolve to do it better by reporting to someone else who is trying too. This time, we’ll stay within the high ideals of our good intentions. Then the “others” quit, or move away, and we fail again. Sounds like a treadmill, lots of work, but getting nowhere, again and again.

The treadmill syndrome goes like this:

  • repenting of our coldness,
  • receiving forgiveness,
  • recommitting our life to Jesus,
  • really trying harder,
  • recurring failure in our attempt,
  • repenting of our failure,
  • receiving forgiveness,
  • recommitting our life to Jesus,
  • really trying harder again really failing again,
  • repenting of our failure,
  • receiving forgiveness,
  • recommitting our life to Jesus,
  • really, really trying hard,
  • really, really failing again.

In spite of our fervent prayers of dedication, re-dedication, and re-commitment, and with every good intention to have the Lord really help us, we fail again. Life just seems to return to the normal humdrum, flickering, hardly glowing ember. This vicious treadmill takes many Christians to a place of mediocrity, perpetual guilt, and inner turmoil, just going through the motions. Then complacency and resignation sets in.

Our eternal salvation is secured, our sins are forgiven and somehow we are going to make it to heaven. Finally, someday, heaven will be our possession and then the struggle will be over. It is nice to know that we’re on our way to heaven, but in the meantime, — it’s a mean time.

It is sad to realise that thousands of Christians around the world live that way. They are committed with all of their hearts to bring the others from the world into the same condition in which they find themselves, defeated and discouraged, and unable to consistently live the Christian life.

Might there be something seriously wrong with the whole approach?

The Pattern of Jesus Christ

Let’s look at the way Jesus Himself lived. What was His secret of being on top all the time? He lived by a simple principle. It is the key to living the Christian Life. Many times in the four Gospels, Jesus said, “In and of myself, I can do nothing” (John 5:19,30). At other times, He said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9).

As a man, Jesus knew from the very beginning of His earthly life, that He could do nothing independently of any good or lasting value, unless He depended by faith and reliance upon His Father living in Him (through the Holy Spirit). In this way, “Jesus of Nazareth, a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him” (Acts 2:22).

It is in this same way, (method) by which Jesus sends us into the world, even as the Father sent Him (John 20:21). You see, the Christian Life is Jesus. By faith we are to trust in Him to live through us, just as Jesus trusted the Father to live through Him. Colossians 2:6 says it this way, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, (by grace through faith), continue to live in him (by grace through faith), rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught.” Philippians 2: 3, expresses it this way, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to act according to his good purpose.” That leaves no room for our independence. The Christian Life is Christ living His life in us.

Yet if we try to live the Christian Life, (even with Christ as our Helper), we soon discover that we stumble and fall on the treadmill of self-effort. When you think about it, the real problem is the believer himself. He/she is trying in their own efforts to do it, and that will always result in failure, even if it looks successful. In God’s sight it is “wood, hay and stubble” and amounts to nothing of eternal value (1 Cor. 3:12). It is not that our desires or motives are wrong; it is simply that we use the wrong energy–our own, not His.

It often takes a lifetime for the believer to discover this major flaw in his thinking about the Christian Life. Often a major crisis comes into his life, and the circumstances nearly crush or break him. Many trying years pass, before the believer will admit that he cannot do it, cannot handle it, and cannot pull it off. It is precisely at this time, that the Holy Spirit wants to reveal that the believer himself is the obstacle to victory, and that his worst enemy is himself! It is not the sins and failures that are the problem, but it is he, himself that is the problem.

In Romans Chapter 7:14-25, Paul the Apostle talked about this struggle in his life. “The things I would, I do not, and the things I would not, I do. I see then, that in me, that is my flesh, there dwelleth no good thing. 0, wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?” He was being shown by the Holy Spirit his treadmill living, trusting in himself. He, like many Biblical characters before him–Job, Elijah, Moses, Jacob and Joseph–had come to the end of himself and surrendered to the Spirit of God working in him to do what he could not do.

The Great Exchange

When we in our day come to this blessed realization–that we are bankrupt, and that in ourselves can do no good thing–we are ready to “get off the treadmill.” We can come to “hate our life in this world, and be ready to exchange it for Christ’s life” (John 12:25). If we are ready to do this we will be in a position to live in victory in Christ. Rather than rededicate our lives to Christ, or just put Christ on the throne of our life, we will then be willing to surrender our life into God’s hands, for God to do with it what He wants to do with it. This is much different than a rededication, or recommitment of making Jesus Lord of my life. It is surrender, a giving up on self; and surrendering to Jesus living within.

It embraces the Biblical concept that Jesus has come to be our LIFE ! (Colossians 3:4). Jesus did not come to be only the Lord of our lives, nor to be the helper of our life. He is the LIFE, and came to be our life source, the spiritual essence of our very being.

If you are tired of getting nowhere on the treadmill of self effort to live the Christian life, then you might consider laying down your life in total surrender and take up His Life in exchange for yours. A surrender and trust prayer might sound like this:

Heavenly Father, I recognize that I cannot live the Christian Life in my own strength. In and of myself I am an absolute failure. Because I can’t live the Christian life, I choose to allow Christ to live His victorious life through me. I accept that my old self has been crucified with Christ, (same time, same place). I accept the fact that I was buried with Christ, and that I rose with Him in newness of Life, and that today, I am seated with Christ in the Heavenly places. I accept that Christ is now my LIFE! I am trusting You, in Your timing, to make this a reality in my experience. Everything I am and have belongs to You. I choose to believe these truths and act upon them, no matter what my circumstances are or continue to be. Teach me more about who I am in Christ. If there is anything hindering your life from flowing through me, please bring it to my attention. Thank you for the victory which is now mine through Christ. In Jesus’ Name Amen.

This prayer by faith gives God “permission” to do whatever He has to do in order to bring you to victory in Christ. If you sincerely surrender, giving up on your self, you may expect the Spirit of God to use circumstances and people to break you of your self-sufficiency and dependence on your own resources. Then, by experiential choice, you will learn more and more, how to consistently rely by faith on the indwelling Christ (I Peter 4:1-2,12-13, II Cor, 1:8-9). There will still be fluctuations in our feelings and behavior, but this breakthrough is like crossing the Jordan River into Canaan (Heb. 4:9-12).

Are you willing in this way, to “take up your cross, and follow Jesus” allowing the power of His Word to so form Christ in you, that your desire to live in practical holiness will at last be achieved? Give up on yourself; begin to trust in Christ as your source of life, of identity, and of enabling grace. He will begin to live His powerful life in you, “doing exceedingly abundantly above all that you can even ask or think, according to the power (of His Life) working within you” (Eph. 3: 20).


Additional Scripture verses which will be of help to you in making this surrender: Romans 6:3-6, 5:10; 8:2; 7:14-25; II Cor 5 :14,21; Galatians 2:20-21; Philippians 2: 3; Col. 2:6,20; 3:1-4; Luke 9:30; 2 Cor. 7:1. – D.H.

If this message has spoken to your heart, and you wish to obtain help or assistance or material, the author would be pleased to help you to come to the freedom that Jesus provides through the work of the cross: Donald E. Higgins, 27 Hillcrest Ave., Kirkfield Ontario, Canada K0M 2B0, 705-438-8788 donmim@bell.net Before moving further north, Don served as founder of Crossways to Life in Kitchener, ON.


Honorable Mention

The song “To Live is Christ” epitomizes the abiding Life. (It was inspired by Philippians 1:21). Listen to the official audio track by Sidewalk Prophets on YouTube here.

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