The Three That Count

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By rep. 11 of a 15-rep. set of exquisite tortures devised by my half-my-age-but-twice-as-buff trainer, I was struggling. He noticed. (He always does.) My arms were beginning to wobble a little, and I’m pretty sure my face was turning red.

"Come on," he said, "breathe. Push through. It’s the last three that count."

These are the sort of words you should never say to someone who "does words" for a living. I was in just enough pain to be a smart aleck and somehow found the breath to say, "If only the last three count, let’s just skip the first 12."

He laughed . . . and I did four more. When I finished, he said this: "You’re doing the first 12 to get to the three that really count. So you need them all." I think young Danny may be too smart for his own good.

For the rest of that day (and several more), I’ve thought about those last three reps and my trainer’s simple words. He’s a kinesiology student, so I’m sure he could explain that "last three" premise in more detail than I would care to hear. But I’m a student of a different discipline, so my mind went a different direction.

I thought about my Savior, who lived 30 years of relatively ordinary existence before He embarked on the three years that made the history books. Then I thought of the last few days of His 33rd year, and the final Friday, Saturday, and Sunday that changed the world forever. They were grand. Glorious. Necessary! But without all that had come before, they would have been meaningless.

We often think of life in terms of attainment—but it’s mostly preparation and perseverance.

Faithfully and repeatedly doing whatever is required of us before "the three that count." Moses lived some pretty mundane years on the backside of his father-in-law’s farm before he got the "big job." Those years were preparation. Joseph languished in prison as an innocent man for quite some time before his meteoric rise to power. Every day in his lonely cell was an exercise in perseverance. Neither man knew when they'd get to "the three that count"—or if they ever would. But the meantime was making them ready.

That’s why I’m less and less tempted these days to skip the reps that come before "the three that count." Even when they hurt. The last three may change my body, but the unheralded, ordinary first 12 will most surely change my heart.

“When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance becomes fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character, men of integrity with no weak spots” (James 1:1-4, Phillips).

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