Saturday, October 9, 2010

Stretching out Faith

My favorite class to teach, bar none, here in Costa Rica is my ladies exercise class. We get together every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to sweat our guts out in the hope of possibly burning enough calories to compensate for all the eating we've done on the days in between class in an attempt to lose weight and get healthy. I love my ladies. They are faithful, committed, and always willing to try any stretch or exercise I throw at them with a smile on their face (and usually laughing at the ridiculocity of it all!). Here's the thing about exercise. You have to stretch. Athletes know this fact very well. They lightly stretch before exercising and always stretch after. A good athlete knows that stetching increases muscle control, flexibility and range of motion to reduce injury and increase performance.There are many techniques for stretching in general, depending on which muscle group is being stretched. Each stretch is done at a specific point in the work out so as to maximize the benefits to the muscles. A good athlete also knows that stretching can be dangerous when performed incorrectly, that some techniques may be ineffective or detrimental, even to the point of causing permanent damage.  After a good long workout, stretching can feel really good and relaxing. However, stretching still does not prevent muscles from being sore the next day. 

In the church, we often say that "Oh, God is really stretching me right now. You know, He's stretching my faith". What does this mean? If we take it in the context of exercising, you know, like running a good race, fighting a good fight, then we should be feeling stretching from God all the time. What if God were constantly calling us to "exercise our faith"? Maybe He would lightly stretch us to warm us up. Then haul our butts on the matt and work us out hard. Call us to do extraordinary things until our spiritual muscles burn. And then stretch us again. Stretch us in different ways. To maximize our spiritual muscle action potential. Maybe also He knows our muscles better than we do. He knows just exactly how far to stretch so as not to damage or tear our muscles. Only to do it all over again the next day. Sure we will feel sore the next day. And the next. And the next. But soon it won't hurt so much and we'll begin to see the results of the hard work that has been put into all the stretching and exercising. The results of living this kind of spiritual lifestyle would leave us with super ripped spiritual muscles. Muscles that would know how to do all kinds of things. Full of strength and power. Muscles that can carry the weak, defend the broken, and train others in stretching and developing their muscles, too.

1 Corinthians 9: 24-27
 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run,
but only one gets the prize?
Run in such a way as to get the prize.
 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.
They do it to get a crown that will not last;
but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly;
I do not fight like a man beating the air.
No, I beat my body and make it my slave
so that after I have preached to others,
I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

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