Strength-Training

“The Lord strengthen and protects me; I trust in Him with all my heart.”  Psalm 28:7a (NET)

“Will you trust Me in the shadow as well as in the sun?'” God said to me. “Do you not yet know that inner strength comes in and through the struggle?”

Strength comes through the struggle.

Yes, it does. And the same is true for strength-training. In order for our muscles to grow stronger, they need to be progressively overloaded. In other words … to get stronger, muscles need to be systematically and repetitively loaded beyond the point at which the muscle is normally loaded. Plain English? A muscle needs to repeatedly work against resistance to a point of fatigue. Then the muscle repairs and grows.

This is how God made us. As we struggle to lift a heavier weight, our muscle is growing stronger.  It is one of His principles in this world.  And when we struggle to get through trying times, we get stronger in spirit too.  (See also “Growing Stronger” post (8/10/15) and “Growth” post (6/24/14)).

So every time I weight-train these days, I think about growing stronger. I think about all of me growing stronger.  Because, rest assured, the thought and intention I put into my weight-lifting routine is nothing compared to the thought and care God puts into the “shadows” He allows me to go through.

“Will you trust Me in the shadows as well as in the sun?” He asks.

Yes, I will Lord.

And with You by my side, I trust that I can and will come out stronger on the other side.

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Functionality

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.”  2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

Inconvenient truth? I’m aging. And so are you. We are all aging. But at some point, the effects of aging seem to accelerate and become increasingly evident. And yet, inside this inconvenient truth is a gift — the gift of clarity.  The gift of clarity and power and purpose behind  why I do what I do.

Exercise and fitness is not about vanity and looking good. Oh, perhaps has been at some point in my journey … but exercise and fitness is about faith and functionality.  It’s about honoring God and remaining available.

As such, the discipline of exercise is like the discipline of a daily quiet time with God.

When we meet with God every morning, we connect with the source of Life — the source of all Power and Truth and Love.  We get plugged into God.  Nice as it is, the point is not just to have a precious oasis with God; the point is to connect with God so that we can bring Him into the rest of our day … into all aspects of our life.  The point is to connect with Him so that we can be more engaged and effective in the rest of our day.

When we exercise our bodies, we are exercising to keep our bodies functional and effective.  Two effects of aging are a loss of muscle mass and a loss of flexibility.  As a result, we lose mobility and functionality. But if we exercise & stay fit, we can maintain strength and mobility; if we keep th discipline of exercise, we can maintain flexibility & good functionality.  We carry the results of exercise out into the rest of our day and all areas of our lives, making us more engaged and effective.

The discipline of the Quiet Time and the discipline of exercise.

Both are meant to bless us, yes … but even more so, both are meant to help us be a blessing to God and to others.  Both are organically connected with the whole of our lives: relationships, struggles, opportunities, uncertainties, etc.

We should use them both more faithfully.

Growing Stronger

“‘You don’t have enough faith,’ Jesus told them. ‘I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.'” Matthew 17:20 (NLT)

Faith is like a muscle. The more you use it and exercise it, the stronger it grows.  I have yet to move a mountain (so my faith must still be smaller than a mustard seed), but my faith is growing. It is a muscle I want to grow and develop and use to its utmost.

God made our bodies covered with a myriad of muscles. If you’ve never admired the muscular system, I’d highly recommend it! It’s an amazing thing. Layers and layers of muscles — some large, others tiny — each with a specific purpose and role.  But God also designed our muscular system with this principle: muscles are to be used, and if they aren’t used, they atrophy. If you don’t exercise them, they dwindle. And the more you exercise, the bigger and stronger they grow.

And so it is with faith. The more we exercise it, the stronger it becomes. Sometimes we face circumstances where we can choose to step out in faith. Other times, we find that circumstances have come upon us that give us no other choice but to exercise faith. But either way, we end up with the chance to develop our faith muscle.  We get to find and tap into a muscle that perhaps we haven’t used in years, but as we do, we find it grows.  And in the end, that’s a gift.

Faith is like a muscle.  Perhaps one day the mountain will move.

Stretching

Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle into desolate cities.” Isaiah 54:2-4 (NIV)

Recently, I’ve started teaching some stretching classes again. It’s such a good practice to get into — the intentional stretching and lengthening of muscles.  One of the things I remind the women in my class is the truth that we lose flexibility as we age … & as we lose flexibility, we lose mobility. Our joints are restricted from their normal maximum range of motion because the surrounding muscles are too tight to allow such motion. So by losing flexibility and then mobility, we become less able to respond to the demands life puts on us. To the extent I can help it, I don’t want that to happen to my body.

And I don’t want that to happen my soul either. Our souls can also become inflexible. We can get too comfortable, too stiff, or too brittle to respond to God’s call on our lives. We can refuse to lengthen and stretch and grow … & by doing so, we can impede God’s work not only in our lives but also through our lives to the world and others around us.

Just as I tell the women in my stretch class that it takes time and repetition to stretch tight muscle groups, I am reminded it also takes time and repeated intentionality to open up & allow God to do new things in me and through me. Just as it takes practice for muscle memory to develop and for muscles to expand, so it takes spiritual practices to allow God to stretch us in new ways and to new heights.

God has a wonderful plan for our lives. He has great things He is going to accomplish, and He wants to use us to do it! May we stay malleable and flexible enough to always respond to Him!