It’s the first week of January. This is the time of year when Christmas carols fade and the siren song of diet marketers promising “quick results” saturate print, radio, television and social media.

When someone claims they can deliver huge financial returns virtually overnight we call it a “get rich quick scheme.” When they promise a degree over a 3-day weekend we call it a “diploma mill.” We know intuitively that any worthwhile and beneficial endeavor will involve perseverance and discipline, and that any shortcut is likely a scam. When speaking about quick changes in our body composition, however, we tend to use more nuanced language. For millions of Americans rapid weight loss is called a “personal goal” or “New Year’s resolution.”

I will call it what it is – a seductive lie.

 The same forces that are at work when we visit a casino or pay ten percent down for a new car that depreciates the moment it leaves the dealer’s lot are at work when we pursue shortcuts in physiological discipleship. We want to own or experience something we have not earned or for which we have not paid for. It takes months or years of consistent behavior patterns to gain significant unwanted weight, but we want the consequences of these behaviors mitigated in six weeks or less.

The sad truth is our flesh craves transformation without the testing of time, the crucible of denial and the discipline of perseverance and faithfulness.

 Few good, enduring, and sustainable things in life happen quickly. We are warned in Scripture to avoid the allure of gain without effort or pain:

Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it. – Proverbs 13:11

A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished. – Proverbs 28:20

We are warned in Scripture not to elevate a new believer quickly to leadership as true spiritual maturity takes time:

The leader must not be a new believer. If he is, he might become proud. Then he would be judged just like the devil. – 1 Timothy 3:6

Even the Apostle Paul, who possessed serious spiritual credentials at the time of his conversion, spent three years letting the Holy Spirit transform a heart given to zealous legalism. (Gal 1: 14-18) 

The sad truth is our flesh craves transformation without the testing of time, the crucible of denial and the discipline of perseverance and faithfulness. This is the domain of covetousness, not sanctification. You can’t achieve physiological “fast results” that stand the test of time any more than you can microwave spiritual maturity.

Quick weight loss – if it does occur – doesn’t last because it never addresses the underlying issues that initially fostered the unhealthy behavior. In this regard, crash diets are simply another manifestation of man-centered shortcuts to a desired destination: belief without repentance and spiritual maturity without testing. Like the redeemed magician in Acts chapter 8, we’d rather pay for quick results without the burden of actually dealing with a heart condition.

Our journey of transformation in Christ is always described as a daily walk, a race requiring endurance, and a strategic discipline. Instead of “revving up our metabolism”, let’s commit to the bigger challenge of an honest, humble, and Spirit-empowered pursuit of daily discipline. If we can do that, the first week in January will be no different than the other fifty-one.

“…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” – Heb 12: 1-2a