Recently, my grandson, Caden, had his first day of conditioning for high school basketball. I asked him what three words described his experience. He texted back, “Painful, hard, fun.” His response made me smile as I had exactly those same feelings in my training in athletics.
And, just this week, someone wrote to me and said, “When I first started making declarations, something would rise up inside of me and scream, ‘These aren’t true and won’t work for you,’ but I just kept saying them, and my life has been transformed.” Both of these cases illustrate the concept of “no pain, no gain.”
“No pain, no gain” is an idiom that became prominent in the 1980s. It implies:
It is necessary to work hard to reap rewards
We must suffer to achieve
In order to improve, progress, or succeed, we must subject ourselves to difficult or even painful training
There is certainly great truth in this, but the “no pain, no gain” mindset also has the potential to create problems for our spiritual life. Let’s explore the good and the bad of this belief system.
The Benefits of the“No Pain, No Gain” Philosophy
“Vision gives pain a purpose.” (Kris Vallotton)
Athletes and workout enthusiasts understand that if their muscles are not sore, or if they have not trained to exhaustion, then they have not pushed themselves hard enough in their training regimen. Caden told me, “If your muscles are not sore, then you are not training right.”
As I pondered Caden’s words, I thought about one of my visions for Igniting Hope. It is that belief workouts become more popular than physical fitness workouts. “Belief workouts” are part of our Transformational Mind Renewal Course. In these workouts we especially emphasize twenty-five beliefs (25 Declarations to Increase Influence and Leadership.pdf) to exercise through declarations, meditation, and imagination. Most people would agree that having strong beliefs is more important than having a strong body, and we want to help people find a way to do so.
As we consider the concept of belief workouts further, let’s look at 1 Peter 4:1,“Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” We are told here of a suffering that eliminates sinful behaviors. One way of looking at this regards denying our flesh of temporary gratification because we are fixated on long-term fulfillment and emotional health. It is what is spoken of Moses when he chose “to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25).
However, I believe there is a more important way to look at this beneficial suffering in the flesh. It is when we are dismantling negative strongholds in our lives. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). We will experience a type of emotional suffering when we start taking thoughts captive (pulling down strongholds and casting down arguments in our thinking).
We experience healthy pain in our emotions when we:
Start declaring who God says we are when our past experience is screaming at us that it is not true.
Attack the roots of the victim mindset in us with God’s Word.
Seek to take captive any thoughts that do not glisten with hope.
Begin overcoming the fear of being disappointed again and exercise the “dreaming muscle.”
When we work out our beliefs regularly with God’s promises, our biblical identity, and attach faith to the decisions we have made and are making, then we will experience some emotional and mental discomfort, but it will all be worth it.
Before I close, I do want to mention when the “no pain, no gain” mentality is not beneficial.
The “No Pain, No Gain” Philosophy Can Be Harmful If:
We believe we need to suffer for Christ to become worthy of His love and blessings.
We allow an attitude of striving to keep us from experiencing a Hebrews 4 rest.
We allow a perfectionistic spirit to keep us from the joy of the Lord and from celebrating progress in our lives and in the lives of others.
We are focused more on what we need to do than on what Jesus has done.
We believe that if we are not experiencing regular attacks from the devil, then we must not be a threat to him and are doing something wrong.
Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.