What Limit Spiritual Muscle?
The spiritual strength we develop while laboring under a burden is not limited in usefulness. In other words, the discipline and submission we learn while enduring hardship is not limited to personal piety or "spiritual" activities only. The Apostle Paul describes life in Christ as walking in the Spirit and says we who are in the Lord fulfill the righteous requirements of the law as we live according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4). He says if we have new life in the Spirit we should manifest the same by walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). Now let me ask you; as someone who has experienced the new birth, is there ever a time when your new creation is not a fact? In other words, if you are a new creation in Christ, are there legitimate and moral activities that require you to set your new birth aside? (Kind of like leaving your religion at the door.) I'm not talking about sinful acts. Every Christian sins from time to time. That's why the Bible tells us what to do when we sin: confess our sins; he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). What I mean is, living and walking are, well, living and walking. We do that all the time, with every breath we take.
It should be clear, if we are truly born again we are born again at nine in the morning, twelve noon, six in the evening, midnight and every second in between. In short, there is not a moment of time when we are not in the Spirit. Thus, the maturity we develop (or should develop) as we pass through life is useful for all of life. It is not effective only in issues of personal piety. Instead, the work of God in our life as we cheerfully bear life's burdens prepares us to meet all of life head on. The man born blind and healed by Jesus did not retire to the desert to flex his spiritual muscle through private prayer and meditation. He dove head first into the socio-political-religious war raging around him.
Hardship is supposed to drive us to the Lord and increase our dependence on him. We do well to contemplate the wonder and majesty of our King while under the lash. A burden properly borne will cause us to consider the authority of Christ in every facet of life. The result is a deeper understanding of the kingdom – the universal reign of the Lord. And if the lordship of Christ is universal, the purpose of spiritual sweat is likewise universal.
Over the years I have received the occasional letter or email chiding me because these articles delve into topics that are not "pastoral" or "spiritual." Anonymous authors demand I "stick to the Bible or find another job" I always smile when these missives of pseudo-prophetic thunder arrive in the mail. In the first place it's proof someone is reading the column. But the real humor lies in the fact that if I stick to the Bible I will be writing about politics, medicine, the arts, family, science, international relations, criminal justice, business, economics, education and on and on. Nothing is exempt from the lordship of Jesus Christ and so there is nothing I should avoid writing about; the Christian life embraces all things.
Spiritual muscle is not supposed to be kept in reserve for "churchy" activities or personal piety. The Christian life is lived in the Spirit and so all things are spiritual. Submission to Christ learned through hardship must bear on our entire life and being. Either he is lord of all or he is not lord at all.
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