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Not long ago I read a book called Fitness After 40. It was an intriguing book that helped me to understand pretty much everything that has gone wrong with my body over the past couple decades!
The list of changes was quite lengthy, but one of them had to do with the way we tend to become less and less flexible in our muscles and joints as we grow older. Every athletic coach I’ve had over the years has always told me how important it is to stretch, but this book seemed to flip a light on in my mind as I began to understand just how important stretching is for our bodies … over time.
In a similar way, we must also remember to stretch SPIRITUALLY as we grown in the Lord over time. And when we stretch spiritually, it always has to do with our faith. God wants us to stretch in our faith.
Paul lays out an amazing list of Bible personalities in Hebrews 11 who demonstrated their faith in powerful ways. This passage has come to be known as the “Faith Hall of Fame,” and we can find many examples of how to live by faith.
Hebrews 11:6 says,
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Faith is absolutely central to the Christian experience. We enter into a relationship with God through faith (Romans 10:9-10), and Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith is a big deal!
And faith is powerful! Jesus said that if we will have faith as a grain of mustard seed, we can pray and see mountains cast into the ocean. I wonder how small my faith must look in that type of comparison!
As you read this, I’d like to suggest to you that it is likely that God wants to stretch your faith. And just like physical stretching, spiritual stretching is not easy. Stretching requires us to push beyond our normal level of comfort.
I’ve seen some pretty amazing feats when watching MMA fighters on TV. It’s stunning to see how a fighter can effortlessly swing his foot over the head of his opponent with no thought at all. But one thing I know about that fighter is that he took many, many years to stretch those muscles so that he could get to that level. And the stretching in his gym was always designed to push him beyond what felt comfortable.
And so it is with our faith. God wants to stretch you beyond your normal comfort zone. And that is where you will begin to see growth and progress like never before.
Consider the following when it comes to the ways God may want to stretch you:
The chances are great that God likely wants to stretch you today!
When it comes to your spiritual fitness, don’t forget to stretch!
1 Timothy 4:8
For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.
We certainly live in a health-conscious world. Everywhere we turn we see advertisements for fitness equipment, nutritional supplements, health food, gym memberships, and more. Many people are obsessed with taking care of their bodies – and it’s for a good reason, because our lives depend on it!
But even though our physical health is important, Paul reminds us in the above passage that our spiritual fitness is even more important than our physical fitness. We don’t want to neglect our bodies. But even more so, we must not neglect our spirits.
1) Your eternal life depends on it.
The life we spend on this earth is nothing compared to the eternal life we will enjoy with God in heaven someday. At least this applies to those of us who have put our faith in Jesus, the Son of God, and have called on God to rescue us. (Romans 10:13) If you have not yet turned your life over to God and committed to following Him, I plead with you to make that commitment in your heart right now. We must not lose sight of the fact that life on this earth is temporary, but life after death is permanent.
2) Your current happiness depends on it.
When I was young, I used to think that Christianity was all about the “next life.” But over time, I came to learn that the Christian faith also has everything to do with enjoying a joyful, meaningful, happy life NOW. There is no greater life than a life that is lived walking with God … TODAY!
3) Your family depends on it.
If you’re not willing to take care of yourself spiritually for your own sake, I would still implore you to take care of your spirit for your family’s sake. Your kids need to see you walking with God. So many parents spin out spiritually in front of their kids, and their kids end up suffering greatly as a result. Your siblings need to see you walking with the Lord. Your parents will benefit when you are doing well spiritually. Your cousins and grandparents and nieces and nephews will be blessed when you are well spiritually. And it could be that you will be the only “Bible” that they will ever “read.” So do not neglect your spirit.
4) The world depends on it.
I often wonder how many unbelievers trip over unhealthy Christians when they are stumbling away from God. This world needs to see Christians who are healthy, passionate, and genuine. We are God’s vehicle for His message of love to those who are lost. But we must be healthy if we are going to effectively deliver that message in a way that will change lives forever.
Physical fitness is important. But spiritual fitness is even more important. So make plans to strengthen your spirit today!
I am a big believer in the doctrine of healing. I have experienced God’s healing in my own life, and I have witnessed God healing myriads of people over my past couple decades I’ve been in ministry. I am greatly comforted by verses like the one in James that gives us a great hope in the power of prayer:
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.
14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
I do believe that God heals, but I also believe that healing is not always the only path that He chooses for us. Sometimes His perfect plan for our lives is to allow us to suffer and experience disease, illness, and hardship. The reason for this is that He can often teach us things through suffering that we would never be able to learn through a book or seminar, or through comfort and prosperity.
Paul had a problem with his eyesight that God never healed. When Timothy was sick, Paul told him to drink wine (not go to a healing service). The Lazarus who was raised from the dead eventually died later. Paul says that he had a thorn in the flesh which he prayed for God to remove over and over again, but God never removed it. Job suffered because God had a whole bigger purpose for him than mere comfort on this planet. And Job’s suffering was not the result of a lack of faith.
Some of the greatest blessings in this world come from God’s power in the midst of trials. God changes us, molds us, strengthens us, and builds us through hardship. And there is nothing like the experience of being comforted by God alone in that dark hour.
Over the past twenty-five years that I have been in ministry, I have seen people hurt greatly by the false teaching that God always wants to heal every malady. This is because that belief can cause a massive amount of guilt and disillusionment for the afflicted in those times when God actually chooses not to heal. The implication is that the suffering Christian just didn’t quite believe enough or is hiding some sort of sin. I have seen Christians destroyed in their faith over this erroneous teaching.
We must realize that sometimes it’s just not God’s plan to heal or to fix a problem quickly for us. And that’s ok. He still loves us. He still has a plan. And He still has a profound purpose for that pain that can end up blessing us beyond anything we could ever imagine.
Often God chooses to heal! But sometimes He teaches us more and draws us closer when we walk the dark mile of suffering. But to experience such blessing, it is important that we run to God and not away from Him in the midst of the storm.
For an epic example of how God can bless even in the midst of a tragedy, check out this post:
Like others, I have been shocked and horrified by the events surrounding Ferguson this week. It is so sad to see such anger which boils all around us.
But one of my greatest concerns is that no seems to be truly listening. Many people are arguing, but no one appears to be actively attempting to understand the perspective on “the other side.”
Most people merely listen with the intent to refute rather than to understand.
Therein lies the problem.
James 1:19 says, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” (NKJV) Imagine how this approach could bring healing to our nation.
But it’s not “those people” who are the problem. It’s also the rest of us. How are we communicating our own perspectives through Facebook, Twitter, personal conversations, and other means? Are we seeking to understand, or are we only seeking to be understood?
On one side, many are infuriated that a white cop would kill a black man who was not carrying a weapon. On the other side, many are enraged that a police officer is being judged for shooting a man who was attacking him. But neither side really seems to be listening to what is really going on in the heads of those with whom they disagree.
I’m not going to pretend that I “get” the other side. But I am committed to listening to what is truly going on and doing my best to solve the true problems as I see them.
To answer before listening– that is folly and shame. (NIV)
Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others. (NLT)
A wise person listens to both sides. An arrogant person stops listening because he thinks he’s already got it figured out. The fact that our country is in such upheaval is a clear sign that someone is not listening – or truthfully, that NO ONE is listening.
I heard a great quote from Richard Branson this week from one of his business books. He said, “I never learn anything by listening to myself.”
I have found that it does not profit me in my relationship with my wife if I demand to be right and continue to fight “to the end” until she agrees with me. When we have a disagreement, it is much more helpful for me when I stop trying to prove that I’m right and start listening with the intent of understanding her perspective.
Often when my wife and I get into a conflict, the issue we are fighting about is not even the true issue. To get to the true issue, we both have to work at listening. And it does take work!
Jesus taught a “power-under” approach to affecting and infecting our culture rather than a “power-over” approach. He didn’t call us to fight or to subvert others into submitting to our position. His perspective was to love and to serve.
Rather than throwing your hands up in despair and disgust for those who are on the other side of this issue, I would encourage you to take up Jesus’ approach: love others with everything that is within you.
Don’t be rude. Don’t put others down. Don’t mock. Don’t slander.
Just love. And listen.
During this past year, I bought a vehicle that I have wanted for just about all my life: a Jeep Wrangler. I’ve always liked seeing them, but I was just recently able to get one for myself. There’s nothing quite like zipping around town with the top off and doors off. It’s basically like riding a roller coaster … EVERYWHERE.
After buying my Jeep, I got on Youtube to check out what others do with their Jeeps. I was stunned. What do you do with a brand new vehicle? You bury it in mud! Here’s one video of what others have done with their Wrangler.
When I watched that video of that Jeep that was stuck, I realized that that is exactly what people do with their lives. They often run their lives into the muck and mire of this world, and they often get stuck with seemingly no way out. Well, my hope is that, if you are spiritually stuck in your life right now, this blog post will help to pull you out of the pit.
If you feel like you are stuck spiritually and are just spinning your wheels, then I would like to suggest that you take a few moments to ask yourself some self-examining questions. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” King David said it like this:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (NLT)
Many people I have worked with over the years have been able to get unstuck by prayerfully asking these following questions and allowing God to help them find areas that need to be fixed.
1. Is there some unconfessed sin in my life that I need to deal with?
1 John 1:8-10
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. (NLT)
2. Is there some person I have offended or hurt, but I have not apologized to or sought forgiveness or restoration?
So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. (NLT)
3. Is there some person in my life whom I have not forgiven?
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (NIV)
4. Is there any idol that I have adopted into my life in the place of God?
1 John 2:15-16
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. (NKJV)
5. Am I believing lies about God, myself, others, or my situation?
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (NKJV)
6. Am I being disciplined and consistent in my pursuit of God?
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (NKJV)
7. Are there any areas of my life that are out of balance?
1 To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to gain, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7 A time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; time of war, and a time of peace. (NKJV)
8. Are there any areas of my life that are requiring inappropriate amounts of my time?
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (NKJV)
9. Is there some ministry that God wants me to pursue, but I have held out?
1 Timothy 4:14
Do not neglect the gift that is in you …. (NKJV)
10. Have I been 100% honest before God on each of the above questions?
And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (NKJV)
Every responsible Christian prays daily for their children or grandchildren. We pray for God’s blessing and protection throughout their days. We pray for them to be happy. We pray especially when they’re struggling or causing us concern. But you know how it is…sometimes it’s just hard to know what to pray, and we can always use a little help in that area.
That’s why I’m grateful that a friend of mine, years ago, wrote an article that has been published countless times in hundreds of places and been translated into Spanish, Korean, Swahili, and other languages. It has appeared as “31 Ways to Pray for Your Kids,” “A Parent’s Prayer Program,” and “31 Biblical Virtues to Pray for Your Children.” It was adapted into a prayer card that many people have kept in their Bibles or purses and worn out in praying for their children, grandchildren, students, nephews, nieces—and even themselves.
And now that 31-day prayer plan is available as an iPhone and iPad app through the iTunes store. It gives people a way to pray more purposefully and intentionally for the kids they love, providing a Scripture-based prayer for each day of the month. The first prayer, for example, is “Lord, let salvation spring up within my children, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” (Isaiah 45:8, 2 Timothy 2:10). The second prayer is, “I pray that my children may ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’” (2 Peter 3:18). Other prayers focus on Christian virtues and the fruits of the Spirit, asking for kids to develop courage, purity, self-control, and “a love for God’s Word.”
“31 Ways to Pray for Your Kids” is easy to use. It features beautiful graphics and allows you to set a daily reminder so you never have to miss a day. Each prayer takes just a minute to pray and provides a link to the supporting Scripture.
The app is only available right now for iPhone or iPad users. I’m told that the $1.99 price may make possible future Android versions and a Spanish-language app.
We use our phones and other devices for all sorts of things these days. This is one application of technology that I think could make a huge difference in Christian families and future generations.