My new book, Theological Fitness: Why We Need A Fighting Faith, is now available (May 15th). Part of my contract with P&R is to provide a brief book trailer. That puts me in a bind right away because book trailers aren’t exactly as exciting as movie trailers. They are usually either boring or cheesy. So I decided to do something a little different to make it worth your while.
I decided to just go with the whole cheesy thing and give you a bit of a spoof on 80’s karate flicks, while completely making a fool out of myself. Doesn’t that sound more interesting and worth your three minutes? I’m hoping that it will leave you asking questions that can be answered in my book. Because, you know, nunchucks lend a great illustration to perseverance and theological fitness. Take a look at the trailer, and then you can continue to read about my book:
No really, there is a connection. Shortly after I turned in my manuscript for Theological Fitness, I logically thought that this would be a great time to really learn the art of nunchaku. Think of all the illustrations nunchucks lend to perseverance and stamina in God’s Word!
It just so happens that my dad and brother are both something-degree black belts in several forms of the martial arts (that’s my brother in the video). I grew up in that environment, and nunchucks were a pretty ordinary weapon that I was exposed to amongst the naginata, kama, you know, the ushe. Back then I would pick them up and play around with the recognized figure eight motion, but I was uncommitted. Dad and Luke were the ones who had nunchuck skills.
Nunchucks are hard. Literally! It’s difficult enough to learn the moves and get the coordination down on your dominant hand, but you need to be strong on both hands to master the nunchaku. I’m getting some moves down and even learning some cool tricks, but I am lacking the finesse that comes as your fitness increases to a masterful level. I’m also lacking the tips of three of my fingernails and have gained a bump on my head. Hurt my toe pretty bad too. These were all casualties to my attempts on nailing the wrist spin. For this move, as you are spinning the nunchucks, you let go of the one side, turn your hand, and grab the other nunchaku while still in motion.
But stamina requires constant exercise and conditioning. And a bit of obsession. Before I could get to the wrist roll, the over-the-shoulder passes, or the figure eight, I had to practice the simple forward and backward spin over and over. And over. It needs to become like second nature. To work on coordination with the weaker hand, I needed to get good at moving my dominate hand forward, backward, and sideways while simultaneously spinning with the weaker. It looked kind of silly. I’m still not very good at it. But if I want to persevere with the nunchucks, I need to press on in my training. Eventually muscle memory kicks in, and I actually begin to know what I’m doing.
Theological fitness requires much of the same kind of fight to continue. The preacher to the Hebrews exhorts us to hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering (Heb. 10:23). If Christians are to persevere by holding fast to their confession, they are going to need to know that confession front, back, and sideways.
Theological fitness refers to that persistent fight to exercise our faith by actively engaging in the gospel truth revealed in God’s Word. It is something we fight to develop as we persevere in the everyday life of faith and obedience. When we are tempted to backslide, are challenged about our faith, experience affliction, or are just trying to make it through ordinary life, really knowing our hope set forth in God’s Word helps us to hold fast to it. We are strengthened as we read it, hear it, study, meditate on, and talk about it.
Just as with the nunchucks, this requires constant repetition. Thankfully, unlike any other kind of fitness training, we know that we don’t hold fast because of our own skills, but rather because “he who promised is faithful.” As we may figuratively break a nail or crack our head in our attempts to persevere, that muscle memory will kick in. God trains and disciplines us in the everyday. We usually have no idea what he is up to, but we can be sure that it is for his glory and our good. We may be bored, tired, or just plain beat up from enduring whatever our normal is at the time, but we should never waver in doubt of God’s will for us. It is nothing less than to be conformed to the likeness of Christ and he will have his way to get us there.
While breaking down Hebrews 10:23 to exhort and equip Christians in theological fitness, I hope to illustrate that while faith is a gift from God, it is not passive. Perseverance takes a fighting faith, and I would like to help get you to the end, which is really only the beginning.
Enos Hitchcock (1744-1803) was a Harvard graduate (1767) and a chaplain for several brigades in the Colonial militia (seeing battle at Ticonderoga, Saratoga, Valley Forge, and West Point). He also served as chaplain of the Continental Army from 1779-1780. He preached in other New England churches after the Revolutionary War, prior to settling as the pastor of the First Congregational Church in Providence, Rhode Island, from 1783 until his death. During his pastorate, the church grew and built an impressive church in 1794-75 at the corner of Benefit and Benevolent streets. Later his church which was Arminian under his leadership became Unitarian, shortly after his time.
The Alliance is a coalition of pastors, scholars, and churchmen who hold the historic creeds and confessions of the Reformed faith and who proclaim biblical doctrine in order to foster a Reformed awakening in today's Church.