“The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Job 33:4 (NIV)
One of the things I love about exercise are the constant reminders (to self or to others) to breathe. Regardless of the type of exercise — running, weight-lifting, yoga, etc. — we constantly need reminders to breathe. For some reason, we all tend to hold our breath when the exercise gets tough. We clench and try to gut it out and forget to breathe.
Isn’t that true in our spiritual journeys too? Isn’t it true that when we feel things getting tough, we “hold our breath” and try to gut it out. We clench and dig deep and rely on ourselves and our own ability to get through. Why do we do that, when the very thing we need to do is to breathe?
It is the breath of the Almighty that gives me life. When “the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7 NIV). It is His breath that gives me life. In the New Testament, the Greek word used for breath (“pneuma”) can also be translated “spirit” … so I can also say that it is His Spirit that gives me life.
So when I breathe, I invite the Spirit in. When I breathe, I let go of the need to gut it out and make it on my own. When I breathe, I invite the Spirit in, and I surrender to His life-giving and sustaining power. The breath of the Almighty gives me life!
“Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes upon Jesus, the author & perfecter of our faith….” Hebrews 12:1b-2a (NIV)
When I first began following Christ, I mistakenly internalized this passage to mean “run your race with perfection ….” Of course, this interpretation led to frustration & agony on several levels. But, of course, that is not what the author intended. He intended to encourage us to run our race with perseverance & endurance. As I’ve aged in my walk with Christ, the distinction has has become poignantly more clear and has several important implications to me, including:
1) I will struggle and stumble, sometimes I might want to quit, and I will fall down from time to time. Running with perseverance doesn’t mean running with perfection. It means getting back up when I fall down and never giving up. It means keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus while I am running and even when I stumble. He is my motivation when I run, and He is my motivation to get back up again.
2) Running with perseverance & endurance implies it’s going to be a long race. Not a sprint; more like a marathon. And marathon runners will tell you, one of the keys to running such long distances is to stay relaxed. Relax your hands, your arms, your face — relaxing everything except the legs. And it takes thought and intentionality to stay relaxed during a long race. It’s unnatural. We want to push and drive and strain ahead on our own energy. But we won’t make it that way. Long distance runners have to train to stay relaxed. And so we, in our spiritual race, have to learn to stay surrendered. We have to seek to keep our hearts softened and surrendered to Jesus. It is not natural. We have to be intentional about it, but it’s the only way we will finish the race He has set before us.
“Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — that is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1 (NIV)
In view of the mercy that the Father has extended to us through Christ — in light of all we have received in Christ — Paul urges us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, as an act of worship. Is it odd to you that the body can be offered as an act of worship?
So often, the messages I have received from the Christian community is that the body is “flesh,” evil … or at the very least, insignificant. But I don’t believe that is Biblical. The body is a beautiful and incredible instrument that God has given and entrusted to us. It is in and through this amazing body that anything and everything we do flows. And I believe the way we care for our bodies can truly be an act of worship.
How? As with most things, it starts with a perspective shift. A renewing of your mind. As Paul continues in Romans 12, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Then we begin the work of integrating our renewed perspective into the daily way we do things. As with any new spiritual practice, it takes intentionality, focus and repetition at first, but it soon becomes second nature.
So the first step is to ask God to help you renew your mind about the way you interact with and treat your body. God is able to renew and restore damage done by others or by our own hands! Then, take a step of faith consistent with your renewed perspective. In the coming days I will begin posting some helpful ideas and practices in two key areas: how we nourish and how we strengthen our bodies as spiritual acts of worship. Use this poll to let me know which you want to hear about first.