As I drag myself to the gym on my day off, the weather is bitterly cold and I’d much rather be inside next to a warm fire, I feel God prompt me to consider why I choose to work out, despite how I’m feeling and how we can all relate this to our walk with Him.
Typically, we go to the gym or exercise to; improve health and fitness, build muscle, and tone up. As a result, we can see and feel many benefits such as; improved mood, combat health conditions, energy boost, muscle increase, improved physical strength…the list goes on.
I’m quite an active person, who particularly enjoys swimming and walking. Once my nausea, tiredness etc subsided after my 15th week of pregnancy, I couldn’t wait to get back into the pool and walking again. You can imagine my delight when the nurse told me that if I previously exercised before my pregnancy, it’s perfectly healthy to continue (at a reduced level) and will be of great benefit as my fitness and stamina level will enable me to endure labour more effectively- win win!
Muscles need stretching and building in order to grow and strengthen. If you neglect building muscle, within 2-6 weeks you will experience muscle loss and decrease in muscle strength.
‘If you’re looking to add muscle mass to your frame, hitting the weights hard is a given. Quality time in the gym begins a cascade of changes that will stimulate your muscles to grow bigger in response to the challenges you throw their way.’ muscleandfitness.com
Consider other aspects of life, where if we neglect to use something, they can become weak and depreciate in their effectiveness.
Dementia researchers encourage us to use our brain daily to prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s affecting our ability to recall events or use our brain to its full capacity and purpose.
‘Research has suggested that combining good nutrition with mental, social and physical activities may have a greater benefit in maintaining or improving brain health than any single activity.’ Alz.org
My first car had to be taken off the road after one year as I couldn’t afford the insurance. My wise Dad told me I should sell the car as soon as possible, or drive it around the block to maintain the battery and breaks. Me, being an independent, procrastinating teenager, left my car the best part of 7 months sat in my parents’ drive without being moved once! When my M.O.T was due and I eventually realised I needed to sell the car, I soon experienced the repercussions of leaving my car idle in the drive for so long! M.O.T report said something to the effect of; rusty, new breaks needed, new battery, and the list went on- that was one expensive lesson I had to learn! My car was no longer fit for purpose, or re-sale, unless I paid to repair the damage.
So as I began my work out today, I began to consider the thought ‘What about our work out with God?’ Are we using our spiritual muscles; prayer, trust, patience, peace, spending time in His word…?? Are we enabling God to stretch and strengthen us and grow in fruits of the spirit?
Before I go on any further, let me make this very clear- the good news is, that even when we don’t use our spiritual muscles, unlike the examples of my car etc above, we don’t depreciate and God never sees us as unfit for purpose! let me make that perfectly clear! Unlike with my car, Jesus already paid the price for our mistakes, you don’t need to! Just as you can always regain fitness and muscle- the same applies to our relationship with God- It’s never too late to start spending time with Him, trusting and working out with Him, fulfilling His purpose for your life- His gym is open 24/7 with the warmest welcome you’ll ever receive and he doesn’t require an induction or pre-booked appointment! …no membership fee either! Not bad ey?! Who wouldn’t want to join that gym?!
However, turning to prayer, for example, as a last resort isn’t keeping your prayer muscles fully exercised or toned. I have fallen subject many a time to praying as a last resort rather than a first response. I soon found that I could glide along for a couple of days, before I hit another bump in the road, totally unprepared for how to respond, and instead of turning to God first, I would turn to others, until I realised that He is the only one who can answer prayer. Perhaps if I’d maintained my prayer muscle by consistently and effectively communicating with our Father, I would have felt more at peace, knowing that He hears, He listens and He will respond, in His timing.
When I reflect on the times Carl and I have totally depended on Him and trusted faithfully that God is in control of the situation, I can countlessly recall the times he’s shown up and graced us with peace and strength in the midst of the situation. We’ve learned to build our trust muscle, we’ve been stretched and strengthened through challenges and learned to trust despite being uncertain of the outcome. Of course, there are times we need reminding to trust instead of trying to do life in our own strength, but working this muscle daily will stretch and strengthen our relationship with Him and help us to respond better to the challenges thrown our way- just as a working muscle.
Some of us have a better relationship with fitness and the gym than we do with God…wrong weight balance! I can focus on my physical strength and ability in the gym, but my spiritual strength is only achieved through spending time with Him. God can only stretch and strengthen me if I am willing and use the resources he openly offers for us daily. Floating in and out of spending time with him, which I so frequently used to do, caused my faith and relationship with Him to deteriorate and I often felt too weak to deal with any of life’s challenges. Just as we lose muscle strength and fitness if we don’t exercise regularly, the same applies to our spiritual work out.
Training is hard in the beginning, muscles that haven’t been used in a while ache- it’s not easy, but if you pursue and persevere you will see not only physical effects but health and well being ones too. The same applies to training your spiritual muscles- it may seem hard in the beginning, it may be painful, we may find it a difficult routine to maintain- but if we are consistent and build those muscles, we will become spiritually fit.
Give yourself variety- you switch up a work out- why not switch it up with God? He is as relevant today as 2000 years ago and there are many resources written by Godly people who you may relate to- podcasts, books, e-books, blogs, vlogs! – I lose track! He wants you to enjoy spending time with Him, so find what works for you and combine this with your prayer life and reading his word- just as you would in the gym or choosing a way of exercising you enjoy. Get to know him better than you know the weight machines and all their benefits- be sure you are reaping the benefits of a consistent relationship with God- one which stretches, builds and strengthens you!
He will strengthen us so we have the stamina and fitness spiritually to carry the loads we sometimes bear the weight of. If we already regularly work out with Him, then when life throws us a challenge no matter how big or small, we’ll have the strength to not only ride the storm but use our pre-trained muscles of prayer, trust, perseverance, patience, reliance, praise etc to be strengthened and stretched. We will grow not only in strength but in fruits of the spirit and have a positive mindset. Joel Osteen says, ‘When you have a positive mindset, you can’t be defeated.’
I am challenging myself to work out with Him daily, exercising to strengthen my spiritual muscles, working out with Him so I become familiar with different weights he’s training me to carry, stretching all areas so I become flexible and moulded into who He wants me to be, using the resources he provides to help and give me assistance. I want to be spiritually fit! What about you?
Make it a daily routine- get a spiritual fitness buddy alongside you; friends, Christian influences to help spur you on when you feel weak and feel tempted to deal with the situation in your own strength and turn to God later- just like when we feel tempted to stay at home and veg out instead of working out!
So hit the spiritual gym with God! Allow him to be your instructor, stay on His path even when you feel like giving up! And when life throws you a curve ball- you’ll be much better prepared to deal with it!
Stretch, grow and be strengthened.
Make your tent bigger; stretch it out and make it wider. Do not hold back. Make the ropes longer and its stakes stronger.