Book Review: Theological Fitness

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 3.38.23 PMIt’s the end of summer and for many that means new routines and schedules. For me, it means it’s time to take into account one too many scoops of ice cream and the junk food I enjoyed while sitting on the beach. Next week, a group of friends are starting an exercise and nutrition plan. We know that together, we’re more likely to stay on track than going it on our own.

As I’ve considered the exercise videos and the eating plan, my mind keeps returning to a book I read this summer by Aimee Byrd, “Theological Fitness: Why We Need a Fighting Faith” (which, ironically, I read while sitting on the beach eating those chips). She adeptly applies the notion of physical fitness to our fitness in the Christian life. Her book draws from Hebrews, specifically unpacking Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”  She explains:

One thing is for sure, we cannot hold fast to a confession of hope that we know little about. Faith is a gift of God, but faith is a fighting grace. Theological fitness, then, refers to that persistent fight to exercise our faith by actively engaging in the gospel truth revealed in God’s Word.

Throughout her book, she makes it clear that our ability to be theologically fit is all because of the finished work of Christ on our behalf. We do not have the ability in and of ourselves to become more Christ-like.  However, because of Christ’s work, we should expect to grow in our holiness. She writes:

Only Jesus had the fitness for the cross, but because of him believers are given the fitness for the Christian life. Only Jesus was qualified for the work of our salvation. But he has now qualified us for holiness.

Byrd also explains the impact of our theological fitness on those around us. It is not just for our individual benefit that we seek to grow strong in our understanding of the faith. The more we are immersed in the truths of the gospel, the more treasure we will have to share with others:

But we need to ask ourselves if we even have the proper knowledge of God to draw from when our faith is challenged. This laziness isn’t just hurting ourselves. The writer chides the Hebrews from being unprofitable to others. We might not all teach a Sunday school class or a Bible study, but as we mature, we all have a responsibility to bring benefit to others with our knowledge of God.

Like a personal trainer, Byrd is willing to push her readers with sound exhortations:

We are eager to get to the status of a mature disciple, but not so willing to go through the training and discipline to get there.

Who is willing to suffer for a Savior they won’t even trouble themselves to learn about?

Personally, the part of her book that encouraged me the most were her words on perseverance. The longer I walk the journey of faith, the more I have witnessed dear friends depart. Watching those with whom I once shared sweet communion leave the church for a variety of reasons has caused my goals to shift. My greatest hope in life is simply to remain faithful, to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and  faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little;  I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21). Byrd speaks well to this life-long pursuit of God:

There is no plateau in the Christian life.  We are either growing closer to Christ’s likeness or we are falling away.

Put simply, holding fast means that you grab tightly and don’t let go… You have to be prepared to deal with suffering. Endurance takes stamina. Stamina takes training.

Faith is a fighting grace. Do not mistake it for an easy believism or a passive coast until the roll is called up yonder. Have a confession is not enough. We must hold fast to it.

Perseverance, then, is nothing other than grasping the scandal of the cross until the day we die. – Schreiner

Ultimately we are able to hold fast to Him because He promises to be eternally holding fast to us. We pursue Him because He has first pursued us. In a world that offers many other ladders to climb and paths to follow, Byrd’s encouragement is a refreshing reminder of the one pursuit that we cannot afford to neglect.

To learn more about Byrd visit her website, Housewife Theologian or pick up a copy of her new book “Theological Fitness.” Her writings will encourage you to strengthen your theological muscles in beneficial ways.