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Monday, 4 June 2018

How to build Spiritual muscle... the old fashioned way

Today's post is about strength, courage, determination and above all hard work...all things that are a bit out of favour with today's 'quick fix' fascination. But all of which are vital if you want to build strong spiritual muscles that will help you navigate and thrive and keep you moving forward through the hostile and often difficult journey of faith and life.

This is a personal message to myself... I hope others find encouragement and inspiration through it...but really this is me telling myself off and giving myself a kick up the backside, not letting myself give up and ordering myself to put in the hard work and effort it will take for me to be the very best version of myself I can be. Not because of my own ambition but because I believe that God has given all of us the skills and talents to fulfill our potential and occasionally I need to be reminded of this...and inspired to put these skills to work.

Why we need to build spiritual muscle
The Spiritual life is an amazing and truly worthwhile journey...but it was never meant to be means being vulnerable, exposed, opening ourselves to ridicule and sometimes takes a strong foundation in Christ, resilience, hope and bucket loads of determination and focus.

If you want to see a great example of physical strength...I would really recommend watching the 'Worlds strongest man' competition. If you've never seen it then basically it's a competition in which contestants have to compete in some ridiculously difficult events lifting cars, huge boulders, pulling get the idea...

These are some big guys and I don't think I've ever watched it and thought..."I could do that"
Those athletes have not become that strong has taken each of them hard work, patience, pain, determination, struggle, injuries and pain to get where they wanted to be...

Now of course it's important to note that we are not talking about physical strength...but the principle is the same... the Spiritual life of a Christian can be difficult, lonely and can grind you down if you let it... people won't always understand, you'll probably be ridiculed and dismissed...of course we serve a God who is much bigger and greater than all of that...but we have to learn to tap into His strength, listen to His voice and find comfort in His heart...

This isn't a natural response... we're human and fallible and desperate to do everything by ourselves and in our own strength.... building Spiritual muscle is training yourself to respond face everything with instinctively turn to Him not just when things are tough but all the walk in harmony with Him through your whole life... like a tree planted by a river (Psalm 1:1-3) constantly fed and empowered...

How we build Spiritual muscle
When I think of training or growing as a Christian I always think of Psalm 144:

"Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me." (Psalm 144:1,2)

This always helps me to remember that our God TRAINS us for war... he isn't a magician who snaps His fingers and does everything for us... He's the God who wants us to grow and develop into the best versions of ourselves that we can be...of course God can instantly give us what we need and strengthen us and empower us in the moment...but most of the time it takes patience and hard work to develop ourselves... it's not a destination but an ongoing process of learning and growth that lasts our entire lives and beyond.

Most of my heroes are people that have spent time in the wilderness, that are human and imperfect but determined to be better and then they are or were... it's this determination, the never giving up, whatever they've faced that makes me admire them so much... sometimes life sucks... sometimes we want to run away and give up... this is where our spiritual muscles (or lack of) will show...

Like a bodybuilder or athlete.... building our Spiritual muscles is going to take time, and hard work... it's going to take us getting knocked down and hurt, bruised and battered...but you become stronger when you keep getting become stronger when you become closer to become stronger when you learn to instinctively trust in the God who is greater than anything and everything you're going to face...

It's important not to get impatient or frustrated...of course ambition in itself is not a dirty word...when it's focused on God's heart and God's will it gives us the drive to keep getting better... that being said, don't force it, build the foundation on Christ, on the word of God, the Spirit of God and the heart of God, work with those who inspire you, be willing to take a hit, to fall and to fail and above all to keep getting up...but it will take time and effort...but if you're feeling discouraged don't forget that well known wise man you learnt about in Sunday school all those years ago who built his house upon the rock...and what happened to the other guy...

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Disclaimer: the opinions and comments expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Salvation Army

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