Thursday, October 3, 2013

The overload principle

When you pick up the phone and dial the number of a personal fitness trainer you are looking for their guidance to achieve desirable results, right? Maybe you have come to the end of your own attempts to lose weight, gain muscle, run faster or stick to a healthy eating plan. Whatever the case, you have decided that it is time to seek the help of a professional who can inform and guide you. The knowledge they have to share and the accountability they will provide, you trust, will ultimately lead to the results you seek. When reaching out to the trainer, you probably know that the plan they put in place for you might not always be easy to follow. You probably already anticipate days where you will feel deprived of your favorite sweet or pushed to your limit during a particular workout. Although you might not know the extent of the difficulties to come, you know, on some level, that this decision will produce challenges in one way or another.
This difficulty is a necessary part of achieving results. Your personal trainer is well acquainted with this principle. They call it the "Overload Principle." The idea behind it is simple. A greater than normal stress or work load on the body is required for training adaptation (i.e. growth) to occur. To continue to increase physical capabilities and fitness the stress must be changed and increased. If the work/stress load remains stagnant progress is halted and capabilities remain the same. Demand must increase in order for your body to meet those demands.
This is pretty basic. If you want to get better at most anything you have to challenge yourself. If you want to run longer start increasing your distance by 10% a week. If you want to lift heavier weights start by adding 5-10% more weight at a time. Too much too quickly and you could cause injury, sidelining your workouts and putting an abrupt stop on any potential progress. The trainer will guide you, making sure that you are enduring the right about of stress on the body to produce results without burnout or injury.
God uses this same principle. He has His own "overload principle" that He puts into practice to grow His children spiritually. He increases our faith by increasing the pressure in our lives.
James 1:2-4 is often quoted to encourage those in the midst of this pressure. I will call it the "overload principle" scripture. I am not a Biblical scholar but it seems quite fitting to me. The verses say, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
Do you see the overload principle at work in these verses? God is going to add stress to produce results. To increase our faith He must increase the demand for it. Will our faith grow in times of ease and comfort? Probably not. That is when it is easy to just sit by and let our faith remain stagnant. That is not to say we are devoid of faith, but we aren't seeing much growth, if any. On the other hand, when we are in the midst of trial and tribulation our faith is called on in new ways. Our need for our faith becomes paramount. This is the spiritual overload principle at work to produce greater faith and reliance on our Savior.
If you ask God to make you more like Jesus Christ, if you truly surrender yourself over to His will, then expect challenges. Anticipate trials of many and any kind. This is what you are inviting into your life when you ask God to grow you in faith. Just like reaching out to a fitness trainer, God is a personal trainer for your faith. When you sign on to be guided and trained by Him you must know that there will be difficulty. He will stretch your capabilities beyond the point you think you can handle in order to produce growth and progress. All of this is done in order that you may grow in faith and become more Christ-like.
God has a faith workout plan especially designed for you. He knows the sets and repetitions that will produce results. He knows the weight that will need to be administered to challenge you without throwing you into a state of burnout. To you the workload might look daunting, but He knows how much you can handle. He won't give you more than you can take. He will give you enough to grow you without breaking you. He will challenge you in ways you never expected. But take heart, because in the end you will see results you didn't know you were capable of achieving. God, your personal trainer, has mapped out the best plan for you and is promising that you will see the greatest of results.

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