I’m not known for working out. I have never been accused of staying in the gym too long. However, edging closer to the prime age of 41, I do see the need for putting in extra effort to keep the weight down and stay healthy. I know all too well how easy it is to carry an extra twenty or thirty pounds. Fortunately, sweater vests are great camouflage.
I remember a few years back I hit a peak weight, and it scared me into finally plugging in the treadmill and pulling out the free-weights. I did not want to find out where the next plateau would land on the scale. Surprisingly, it did not take much work to whittle myself back down to a healthier place. The combination of aerobic exercise on the treadmill and anaerobic exercise with the free-weights yielded good results. Unfortunately, good results did not translate into good discipline. Oh well, there is always tomorrow.
I learned something interesting. With aerobic, or cardiovascular exercise, you only burn calories while you are participating in the activity. But with anaerobic activity, like weight resistance, you continue to burn calories even when at rest. If you push a muscle past it’s ability, the tissue actually tears and is in need of repair. After the work out, our bodies continue to burn calories repairing the damage. The muscle repairs itself to be able to handle the new loads. Resistance makes us stronger.
“When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4
We can be a little hard on ourselves as people of faith. When circumstances do not work out the way we expect, we often get down on ourselves and lament that we lack faith. This disappointment then welcomes doubt which ironically counteracts the very faith we hope for. Our problem is we often see faith as an “all or nothing” thing. If we don’t see “all”, then we see “nothing”. We need to understand that faith doesn’t work that way. Faith is a spiritual muscle. And the same rules for muscle building apply to faith building. Every living person has muscles. Some of us have more muscles than others, but we all have some. In fact, we had muscles even before day one. Likewise, scripture tells us that each one of us was born with a measure of faith.
Every pregnant mother knows that the growing baby has muscles. All our kids did a quite a number on my wife’s insides before they were born. When we welcome them into the world, we don’t get angry at them for not being able to carry their own diaper bag, sanitize their bottles or help with the groceries. We understand that as infants, their muscles are not developed to handle mature responsibilities.
Instead, we think babies are cute. They sit in their little seats with their little arms and little legs going everywhere at once. As the days and weeks pass, we watch the development of muscle and motor skills. Eventually, they learn to use their muscles and grab a rattle, or TV remote, or coffee mug. The point being we would never think of criticizing a baby for not having the strength to do adult things. Yet we do not treat ourselves with the same grace when it comes to our growing faith.
And so we shoot ourselves in the foot before we ever get started. We rarely think we have enough, and when we ask God for it, we don’t see a lot of improvement. But the Apostle James tells us that when it comes to faith, it is not “all or nothing”! Instead, faith is a process. It is a journey that starts with the measure God gave us at the start. So how does our faith grow? Like muscles, faith needs resistance. Did you notice the progression in James? There are steps, or reps indicated here: troubles → testing → endurance → perfection. Although the steps required to grow our faith are tough ones, it promises a better and brighter day ahead.
It offers hope that the trials that we endure are redemptive. Not only that, but we will be better for it on the other side; stronger and dare we say, perfect, needing nothing? If we endure, God can make something good come out of something painful. There is a purpose for these times. Are you unhappy with your level of faith? Do you wish that you would have been given more? We have good news! Our faith can grow.
So, put on your running shoes on and get those free-weights ready and start working those faith muscles. And one more thing: don’t give up.