I’m going to be honest. I don’t like to exercise. But even though I don’t enjoy doing it most of the time, I know it’s necessary and helpful to my physical health. The same holds true on a spiritual level. We are called to “exercise” for our spiritual well-being, and when we do, we are blessed.
In other words, sometimes we have to choose to put forth effort to fight the spiritual enemies that come against us. We have to direct our will to do the things God tells us to do, and to not do the things God tells us not to do. That’s spiritual exercise.
For example, in Joshua 1:9, the Lord commands us to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (NIV). Check out my last two blogs to see what it means to exercise your spiritual muscles in being strong and courageous. This week, I would like to share with you how to use our spiritual strength to not be afraid or discouraged.
Let God grow your spiritual muscles
Philippians 2:12 instructs us to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (NASB). The meaning of work out is to work fully, i.e. accomplish; by implication, to finish, fashion. In other words, the Lord saved us through His Son Jesus; now, God the Father wants to shape us, to finish and fashion us, to be more like His Son. We have to choose to cooperate with that process, and that decision involves flexing our spiritual muscles.
God allows trials and challenges to come into our lives so that we will have the opportunity to exercise our spiritual muscles, to become more like Jesus. We are told in the Bible that God actually allowed enemies to come against the nation of Israel so that they would learn how to fight (Judges 3:1-2, NASB). The same holds true for our spiritual battles.
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:28-29, NASB). How might the Lord be shaping you in the midst of your trials to become more like His Son? According to the scriptures, a mature Christian knows the Son of God and becomes increasingly more like Him (Ephesians 4:13). How can we become more like Jesus? By saying No!
Say “No” to fear and “Yes” to faith
Fear serves as a signal that the enemy is near because we haven’t been given a spirit of fear; God’s Spirit gives us power, love, and discipline (2 Timothy 1:7, NASB). That signal can be used to remind us to exercise our faith. We respond to and battle fear with faith. “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You” (Psalm 56:3, NASB). We exercise the muscles of faith, and they grow.
The Bible also says, “But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed, therefore I spoke,’ we also believe, therefore we also speak” (2 Corinthians 4:13, NASB). Our faith grows as we choose to believe God’s Word and speak it—to ourselves, our circumstances, and others. We see Jesus model this in Matthew 4:1-11, where He spoke what He believed, straight from God’s Word, and “then the devil left Him” (Matthew 4:11, NASB).
Even trial serves as an opportunity to learn more about God’s Word and the God of the Word, and then to apply those truths to our lives. That’s why the psalmist proclaims, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes,” adding that God’s Word “is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (Psalm 119:71-72, NASB). His Word is alive, and His Spirit moves through it to impact our lives (John 6:63, NASB).
We are transformed (to become more like Jesus) by renewing our minds to the truth (Romans 12:2, NASB). God’s Word is complete truth (Psalm 119:160, NASB). That word for renewing the mind means renovation–out with the old, stinking thinking, and in with God’s Word in our minds and hearts. Then, His Word starts transforming us from the inside out (Proverbs 23:7, NASB).
That takes work. It takes spiritual exercise.
Say “No” to discouragement and “Yes” to courage
Courage involves looking to God (see last week’s blog) and doing what He says because we place our trust in Him. That’s why Jesus could pray before His suffering and death on our behalf, “’Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done’” (Luke 22:42, NASB). The scriptures say, “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8, NASB).
In other words, Jesus knew His Father and trusted Him in all things, and because He trusted His Father, He did whatever His Father told Him to do. Trust and obedience go together (Hebrews 3:18-19, NASB). Jesus put His hope, a biblical word that means a confident expectation, in God alone. We can choose to be courageous for the same reason.
Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NASB). We overwhelmingly conquer through Christ who loved us (Romans 8:37, NASB).
So when discouragement hits, we can see it as a signal as well, a reminder to exercise our spiritual muscles and to choose courage. As the psalmist said, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence” (Psalm 42:5, NASB).
Look at the picture at the top of this blog. Not only is the little girl saying, “No,” but she is also looking away from the thing that is harassing her and is looking toward something else. I like to think she is looking toward Jesus. He is the Source of our spiritual strength, and when we follow the leading of His Holy Spirit in flexing our spiritual muscles, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13, NASB).
We “just say no” to fear and discouragement and exercise our spiritual muscles because we know Jesus, and we know He loves us. He’s the best “workout” partner we will ever have!
Question: How are you being challenged to exercise your spiritual muscles? How can we pray for you?
Jos.1:9; Phil. 2:12; Jud. 3:1-2; Rom. 8:28-29; Eph. 4:13; 2 Tim. 1:7; Ps. 56:3; 2 Cor. 4:13; Matt. 4:1-11; Ps. 119:71-72; John 6:63; Rom. 12:2; Ps. 119:160; Prov. 23:7; Luke 22:42; Heb. 5:8; 3:18-19; John 16:33; Rom. 8:37; Ps. 42:5; Phil. 4:13