Several years ago the term “cross-training” became more popular in physical fitness circles. The idea was that training or working out in a secondary sport better prepared the athlete for their primary sport. For example, a long-distance cyclist playing basketball would help develop some of the fast-twitch muscles needed for quick bursts on the bike. This was valuable insight and has helped many athletes excel.
It’s just as true spiritually.
The Apostle Paul encourages us to, “Carry each other’s burdens.” No small task in itself. In fact, that usually requires some very heavy lifting. But if I’m going to be prepared for the heavy lifting, I’ve got to put in some spiritual cross-training time.
It’s no secret that if I don’t eat right, my body doesn’t have the fuel to burn. If I don’t sleep enough hours, my body doesn’t have the stamina to function properly. If I’m not handling stress right, my mind and emotions will be clouded in their processing capabilities.
All of these areas are just as true spiritually. If I’m not getting the right spiritual food, rest, and peace, I’m going to break down. I won’t be any good to myself or others.
In the same burden-carrying / cross-training passage, Paul says, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”
Yesterday I did some cross-training. I was having lunch with a B.T.D.T. pastor friend (been there, done that). I was soaking up his counsel on vision-casting for my church, enjoying his encouragement for the road ahead of me, and just generally being filled up.
As our lunch was wrapping up, I received a call from another friend who needed help. This friend was in trouble and needed me to help shoulder a burden. I spent the next three hours doing some very heavy lifting.
Here’s the deal: if I hadn’t been doing some spiritual cross-training to prepare myself, I may not have been able to lift that burden. Or, worse yet, I may have been tempted to take shortcuts and fall into the same trap as my struggling friend.
It doesn’t always happen back-to-back like this. But I know the joy of being able to carry a heavy burden for a brother because I have done my cross-training time, and I (unfortunately) also know the heartache of not being a very effective lifter because I didn’t make the time for cross-training.
We never know when we’ll be called upon by a friend. So we need to stay in tip-top spiritual fitness all the time. Your spiritual cross-training regime should include time with God’s Word and time in prayer; reading good books; spending time with encouraging, uplifting people; plenty of rest, good food, and physical exercise; and an attentive ear to those in need.
Cross-train regularly so you can be a great burden-lifter when a friend-in-need calls on you.