In a contest for the toughest president of the United States, it would be hard to go against Theodore Roosevelt. He was known for his “manly” pursuits hunting big game, climbing the Matterhorn, participating in boxing match while president. (These weren’t play fights, he lost the vision on one eye because of them!) Once before he was about to give a speech an assassin shot him in the chest. Roosevelt refused to go to a hospital and insisted on giving his speech, still wearing his blood-soaked shirt!
Teddy might have become tough but he wasn’t born that way. He was a sickly child that suffered from severe asthma that almost proved fatal. As was a young boy, doctors discovered that he had a weak heart, and advised him to get a desk job and not strain himself. He was homeschooled because of his many illnesses and spent most of his time indoors.
But then as a teen his father, whom Teddy Roosevelt revered, told his son, “Theodore, you have the mind but you have not the body, and without the help of the body the mind cannot go as far as it should. I am giving you the tools, but it is up to you to make your body.” He and his father built a gym in the house where he would box and lift weights. He would hike in the woods and would climb mountains in all sorts of weather, even joining the rowing team when he went to college. Roosevelt was determined not to define himself by his disability but to “make his body”. He told the doctors, “I’m going to do all the things you tell me not to do,” If I’ve got to live the sort of life you have described, I don’t care how short it is”
This kind of attitude is so different that what we see in our world today. Our difficulties become excuse we can cling to. Parents long to have their child defined by a disorder so they can excuse away shortcomings. People base their existence on the way they were born, and refuse to admit that thru discipline we can overcome inherent weakness. We let the world tell us that we can’t overcome and it's best we just stay the way we are.
This thinking is ruining not just our physical health but our spiritual health as well. The moment things get difficult, when we are faced with our own weakness, many want to throw in the towel and claim that’s just the way I am. My nature is dominant not my will. We’ve become spiritual pansies. So don’t challenge me, expect more out of me, or push very hard, or I'll will be out the door.
Let’s consider what Paul says in 1st Corinthians 9:26-27:
Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
Paul knew that disciple and self-control were the keys to success in the race of life. We can’t be controlled by our bodies, we must make our bodies! We must train ourselves to overcome our physical and spiritual weakness. Lazy, undisciplined, excuse making people are not going to make it to heaven. Only if we accept the challenge our father has given us to control ourselves rather than being controlled by the sinful nature will we succeed. He has given us “the tools we need” but we must master ourselves!