In Faith and In Hope

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength ….”. Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

Philippians 4:13 is a great verse to toss around in the Faith & Fitness arena. It’s motivating, inspiring & grounding … and it reminds us of why and for Whom we do what we do.

But have you ever been at a point in your journey when you are not sure you can go on. Have you ever been in places or circumstances that are so oppressive that you aren’t sure you have the strength to continue?

I was serving with my kids the other day at Feed My Staring Children — an amazing non-profit that feeds the innumerable kids who are otherwise starving to death around the world. And on the wall was a Philippians 4:13 sign made by the hands of some of these children. And I wondered: can I do all things through Christ & His power? Can I really? Could I really … if I were one of these children?

The past year or so, for me, has been one of the best AND one of the hardest yet. There have been moments when I have wondered how this Philippians-4:13-thing is supposed to work. When I get to the end of myself and am so exhausted and empty and have absolutely nothing left to give. When I want to say “I can do everything through Jesus’ strength” … yet I cannot. And I am reminded of those kids and that sign. And I cry.

So I bought the sign. It is not a slogan or a feel-good verse. It is gut-wrenchingly painful sometimes.

But I bought it to remind me that if they can, I can. I can get up the next morning in faith and in hope that only Christ can give … and I do my best. And trust God for the rest.

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Deepening Dependence

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”  Micah 7:7 (NASB)

This age is one filled with busyness — seeking, striving, working, overworking, constant, non-stop pursuit.  And with it comes so much stress and pressure that never let up.

Because if we do, then everything will fall apart.  Right?

At least that’s what we tell ourselves.  At least that is what the evil one wants us to believe.

But the truth is that we need to stop.  The truth is that we need to rest.

The truth is that our bodies need rest — that our bodies crave rest — in order to be at their best.   And our souls need to rest in order thrive … perhaps in order to survive.

Why?

I cannot say for sure.  But it is incontrovertible that God built into our very being a need for rest — on all levels.  When we are awake for extended periods of time, our body begins to shut down for sleep.  When we exercise a particular muscle group, we then need to rest it in order for it to heal, grow and strengthen.  When we study intensely for a period of time, our minds then need a break in order to assimilate the information absorbed.

And our souls need rest from the constant striving in order to deepen our dependence on God.

When we rest in the Lord, we acknowledge that we are not in control … that the outcome (of whatever it is we are striving to accomplish) is not dependent on us alone.  We acknowledge that all things are actually in the hands of the Lord.  We admit to our frailty and limitations and surrender to His strength and all-sufficiency.

God says: “wait on Me.  Depend on Me.  Trust in Me alone.”

When we rest, not only are we taking care of the bodies and souls that God gave us, but more importantly, we are depending on God and honoring Him in the process.

For me, I learning this to be true:  deepening my dependence on myself isn’t get me very far … but deepening my dependence on God will take me everywhere I truly want to be.

Growing Pains

“I pray with all my heart; answer me, Lord! … I cry out to You; save me!”  Psalm 119:145a-146a (NLT)

Have you ever watched the parents of a young baby (or been one yourself) as they oversee their young one learn to roll over?  If so, then you know how hard it can be to watch your baby struggle over and over again in learning how to do things (like roll over, hold up her head, or begin to crawl).  To sit by and just watch as they struggle over and over … all the while, resisting the urge to help them or do it for them.  It’s hard.

But we know that if we help them … if we rescue them from the discomfort of learning and achieving these milestones on their own … we ultimately handicap.  By rescuing them out of the struggle, we are actually doing them a disservice.

I was working with a chiropractor the other day whose practice actually centers around “relearning” these basic early movements that we either didn’t learn or didn’t learn appropriately.  Perhaps our parents rescued us too frequently from our struggles, or perhaps we never learned to crawl, or perhaps we were rushed into certain stages too quickly.  Any of these have muscular and structural implications for our long-term well-being.  So, in many cases, we have to undo or relearn some very basic movements.

And all this makes me think of God.

In the Psalms, we watch David beg God to rescue him over and over.  Often today, people ask why God isn’t rescuing them or the world from a particular struggle.  Sometimes, I too wonder why I haven’t been rescued from certain struggles.

Maybe it is because God, in all His wisdom, knows that if He rescues us, He would actually be hurting us.  Maybe God, in all His love and kindness, actually restrains Himself from rescuing us … because He wants us to be fully functioning more than He wants us to be temporarily relieved.  Maybe God, because He loves us so much, suffers with us through the growing pains … so that He can celebrate with us at a later date.

David seemed to know that only God was the Author of all that is true and just.  David’s trust in the Lord was unwavering, even when he wasn’t seeing God’s rescue.

So may your trust also be unwavering … and mine … as we struggle through whatever growing pains the Lord allows.  “Be strong and take courage,” reminds David, “all you who put your hope in the Lord!  For He has shown His unfailing love.”  (Psalm 32:24, 21 (NLT))

 

Running to Win

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!”  1 Corinthians 9:24 (NLT)

We all have our own race to run.  

We all have our own weaknesses and unique strengths.  We each have differing proclivities toward sin and temptation.  We have individual gifts and talents given to us by God with specific intentions in mind.  

God is seeking to do a new thing in each of us … but He requires our willing consent.  He requires our willing participation. 

Are we running our own race well?

Are we running to win?

I’ve been asking myself and God the same questions, and as I have, I’ve been prompted with this:

  • Am I guarding my areas of weakness?  Yes, I know what many of them are, but am I moving cautiously in those areas, seeking help & support, and inviting God into those areas?  God knows all about my weaknesses too, and He longs to help me in them.  Am I willing to turn to Him and allow Him to do so?
  • Am I working to establish new habits and practices that make me stronger?  Both in order to capitalize on my areas of strength and also in order to gird up my areas of weakness?  New habits require practice and repetition.  God wants to do a new thing in me.  Do I?  Enough to do the work?
  • And when I fall down and make a mistake, am I willing to get up?  Am I willing to look at and learn from it?  Am I willing to examine my thoughts & emotions around the event?  Am I willing to bring them boldly to throne of Christ?  God already knows all about me. My strengths, my weaknesses, my proclivities to sin. And He loves me anyway. That’s why He died for me.  So I can come to Him with all of me, without fear of judgment or shame.

I want to run my race to win.  Even though I get scared sometimes and even though I mess up, I want to run my race to win.  And I cannot do that if I refuse to be a willing participant with God.

I want to run my race to win.  I believe you do too.

Pondering

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us …. .. Hebrews 12:1 (NLT)

One of my favorite verses.  Hebrews 12:1.  It has been one of my favorite for years.

And yet God keeps showing new things.

This time, it’s the little “and.”  Not the big “And,” but the little one.

For years, I think I’ve overlooked the first “and” … with the result of thinking that only sin is what God is asking us to throw off.

But it’s not.

Don’t get me wrong — sin definitely slows us down. As the verse says, sin “entangles” and therefore keeps us from running our race well … or sometimes from even running at all.  Sin needs to be thrown off.

But then there is the “and.”  Let us throw off everything that hinders AND the sin….

There are things that hinder us that aren’t necessarily sin.  God wants us to throw off those things too.

Maybe it’s a negative attitude.  Maybe it is fear.  Maybe is a bad habit.  Maybe it’s as simple as inertia.  But it is holding you back.

Whatever is holding me back from what God wants to do in and through my life — those are the things God wants me to throw off.  It doesn’t have to be “sin.”

And so I ponder.  What is hindering my pursuit of God physically … mentally … emotionally?  God wants all of me.  What might be hindering me from giving all of me to Him?

It doesn’t have to be “sin.”

Won’t you ponder with me?

Shining 2

 

You have said, ‘Seek My face’…”  Psalm 27:8a (ESV)

The funny thing is that we tend to seek God’s face only when we are in a casual, relaxed place — when we have lots of time & little pressure bearing down on us. It’s then that we seem to find the space to be with God and know Him just for His own sake.

At least that has been true for me.

But one of the things that I hope I can carry out of my gym time is the discipline to seek God’s face when I’m tired and stressed … or when something challenging is pressing upon me.

There’s a temptation to turn away from God when we are exhausted or stressed. Or, if we do turn to Him, to turn only to seek His help. When under pressure, we tend only to seek God’s hand. Rarely in our exhausted and overwhelmed places do we turn to God just to seek His face. (Or at least that’s the way it has been with me). But the truth is that His face is what I really need in those moments, not His hand.

What I really need when I am exhausted and overwhelmed is to know Who God is and what He is like … and to rest in Him.

So as I seek His face in the gym … while I’m tired and sore, pushing heavy resistance and completing long runs … I am praying that I am also training my heart and my mind to seek His face when I’m tired and overwhelmed in other aspects of my life.

Shining

Your face, Lord, I will seek.”  Psalm 27:8b (NIV)

One of my favorite things to do when working with clients, is to help them remember why we do the things that we do.  It’s so rewarding to bring people back to the fount of their motivation & their heart’s desire.  It’s also such an honor to be able to help people shape their motivating force.  To point them to Jesus, and encourage them to seek His face.

Because in the exercise and fitness world, God’s face isn’t always so obvious. People exercise and work out for many reasons, some of which revolve around vanity and other worldly pursuits.

But we exercise to honor God.  We exercise to thank God for the bodies He has given us and to steward them well. And while we work out, we seek His face.

Seeking God’s face is wholly different than seeking God’s hand.  Seeking God’s hand is easy. We do it all the time. We ask for His helping hand, His wisdom, His strength — we ask for His intercession on our behalf. But when we seek His face, we seek simply to be in His presence. We seek to see Him more clearly as He is, and to absorb more of Him.  That’s all.

When I go to the gym, I am submitting my body to the work it needs.  But when I go, I also submit the rest of me to the Lord — to seek His face, to hear His voice, to gaze at the only One who can really heal & change & grow me.

And I trust that … just as Moses’ face shown brightly after he met with the Lord on Mount Sinai (see Exodus 34:29) … all of me might shine a little brighter for His glory with my workout is done.