For the past month or so, I've have been making a concerted effort to get in better shape. As a pastor, I know stress that many people don't face. I don't just deal with my own issues; I've got other people to help, too. All a minister has to handle can take a great toll on him. That is why so many defect from ministry and work secular jobs. That's also why many are overweight, out-of-shape, or have health issues. Knowing that before I go into the senior pastorate, I felt I needed to do something about my health.
I had been going to work out in my townhouse's little gym of universal machines three days a week. Then one of the other pastors here at the church got a deal at a local gym for staff members to work out for free. I was stoked when I got my card. So, on Monday of this week, I ventured for the first time since high school into a real exercise place, with tons of free weights, Hammer Strength Machines, and every other piece of equipment under the sun. You should have seen me. I looked lost when I first darkened that door. I didn't know where to begin! I think I spent the better part of 2 hours working out, using equipment I'd never even seen before! But the thing I quickly noticed when I got there was that of all the guys there working out, I was decidedly one of the small ones. I thought I stumbled onto an ESPN weight training competition! Bulging biceps, protruding pectorals, and colossal calf muscles abounded. I'm not a small guy. I've seen some definite change in strength and definition in the past month. I do have some muscle hidden somewhere under a protective layer of blubber. I know how to lift. But I felt so out-of-place! With all those monstrous, gargantuan men, I think even Arnold Schwarzenegger would have been somewhat self-conscious!
I know I've written several times on a guy named Mephibosheth. I don't want to beat it into the ground, but it's such a beautiful picture of the grace of God toward us. Here was a young man who was born royalty. He was the grandson of the late King Saul, Israel's first king. When his dad and granddad were killed in battle, Mephibosheth's nanny took him and ran. The custom in those times was for the incoming king to kill off any possible heirs to the throne, protecting their position. So the nanny took the small boy and fled. Somehow, Mephibosheth ended up a cripple, unable to get around without assistance. His legs were useless. Some years later, when he had grown up, King David was reminded of a covenant he had made with his best friend, who just happened to be Mephibosheth's dad, Jonathan. The promise was that whoever died first, the other would care for his family. David found out about Jonathan's son, and he sent for him. He was living in destitution, a place called Lo-Debar. I've said before, it meant a "place of no pasture". It was desolate, dry, and depressing. Imagine what Mephibosheth must have thought when he saw a royal guard arrive at his house. Whatever happened, he was taken to Jerusalem, and there he met the king face to face. David dropped on him the news that he was going to be taken care of, because he made a promise to his daddy. "You shall eat at my table continually!" David declared. All he could do was bow to the ground and say, in essence, "Why me? Who am I, King? I'm nothing, and you are making me royalty!"
I imagine what Mephibosheth felt that day was somewhat similar, but hundreds of times great than I have felt this week at the gym. Every time he pulled up to the table, I wonder if he looked under the tablecloth. Why would he do that? To serve as a reminder to him that he didn't get to that royal feast under his own strength. He had to be helped there. Someone had to pick him up and carry him. There were no wheelchairs back then. If you were crippled, you had to have a hand to do anything or go anywhere. Mephibosheth simply could not have made it to that table under his own strength. Certainly he had to feel out-of-place, sitting with the King and his sons. But the neat thing was that just as David's sons had certain rights, so now did Mephibosheth. David in a sense adopted him, and gave him his royalty back.
When I look at how I've lived my life before Christ came along, I have to say, I feel out-of-place. I was not worthy of the sacrifice Jesus made for me. But He died on that cross for me anyway, and welcomed me into His presence. He forgave my sins, and He gave me eternal life. Friends, not one of us could ever do that on our own. Not one of us could ever do anything to bring about our salvation. It was all an act of God's grace. So when I go into His presence, though I go boldly, I have to "look under the table". I was a cripple spiritually, unable to save myself. It was the grace of Christ alone that saved me. If it weren't for Jesus, I'd be nowhere, friends. I'm glad for that out-of-place feeling. It is a constant reminder that I may not have belonged, I couldn't get there myself. But by the King's grace and mercy, here I am!