A Spiritual Workout
by Ryan Duncan, crosswalk
“So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”- 2 Thessalonians 2:15
In some of my previous devotions I’ve written about my habit of working out during the week, and my time at the gym has taught me a few important lessons. First, never go running after eating Mexican takeout unless you want to experiences some excruciating gastro-intestinal distress. Second, always know what a machine does before you try using it or you may end up looking like a complete idiot. Finally, and most importantly, all exercise takes commitment and perseverance. You see, we live in a world that is obsessed with immediate results.
Don’t believe me? Look at the TV commercials that promise rock hard abs in thirty days, or the diet plans that promise to slim our waistline after a week of light work. We are all looking for an easy way out, but if you really want to become strong and healthy, it takes many days of hard work. The same is true for spiritual workouts, just read 1 Thessalonians 5,
And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Brothers, pray for us. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:14-28
I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted just reading that passage. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop it from being true. Save for the grace of God, there are no magical fixes in life. If you want to get physically healthy it means running, dieting, and doing a whole lot of heavy lifting. If you want to become stronger in Christ, you can’t just rely on going to Church each Sunday.
Growing closer to God means forgiving your enemies, encouraging others, and praying continuously day after day. It’s some serious work, and there will be moments when you may get discouraged, but over time when you look back at the things it has allowed God to do in your life, you will know that it was all worth it.
Psalms 19:7-9 7The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. 9The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.
You are reading this devotion today because you believe God’s Word is a need in your life. This passage in Psalm 19 gives a picture of what a great need it is. In all this world, there is one perfect thing, the Word of God. It revives our soul. When you are downcast and need to find hope, the Word of God is the source of hope. It will revive your soul. If you are a simple trusting soul, where should you turn? The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy. Man will always disappoint. Not one man, other than Jesus, has completely trustworthy counsel.
Where can you go for true joy? Happiness will come and go, but the truth of God’s promises to you will give you an inner joy that will endure all circumstances of life. If you need clarity to see the way things really are, you need the radiant light of the Word. It illuminates the motivations of men. It illuminates the motivations of our own hearts. Without the Word of God our hearts would easily deceive us. The Word shines the light of truth on our thoughts and reveals whether they are from our flesh or the Spirit.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. In the Word we see the just judgment on those who turn from God and rebel against Him. We see the treachery and cunning of man’s own heart. The fear of our just God keeps us from playing around with the idea of compromising with sin. Every word of God is pure. You can trust every verse to be completely righteous. Sometimes our carnal mind gets confused by expressions in the Word. We struggle to accept what is written. But if we dig deeper, we find every word to be altogether righteous. Where else could you go to find all these wonderful things? The man or woman who does the same for you, is a man or woman full of the Word of God. They have had their mind renewed by the Word of God.
Scripture Reading — Psalm 139:13-18
[Elizabeth] exclaimed [to Mary]: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” — Luke 1:42
Psalm 139 celebrates the intimacy of God’s connection with an individual human being. Just imagine—God knows you completely. God knows everything that can break your heart, and everything that can make your heart skip a beat. How wonderful! Of course, God also knows your selfish daydreams and dark desires. How scary! No wonder the psalm ends like this: “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (v. 24).
God’s intimate connection with you stretches back to the time before you were born, to the time before you were even conceived. God knows you completely: from start to finish, from top to bottom, inside and out. And God loves you completely. How wonderful!
But the psalm takes on more meaning when Jesus says the words “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Just imagine—the Holy Spirit overshadows the virgin Mary, and the Son of God begins to take shape within her. Talk about intimacy! The One who gave life to Mary is now receiving life from Mary. The One who loved Mary before she was born is now loved by Mary before he is born.
Mary is blessed, blessed among all women, to receive the gift of this child. And the child is blessed, blessed among all children, to receive the gift of life through this mother.
Holy Lord Jesus, it’s such a gift to be known by you and loved by you. I want to know you in return, and to love you forever. Amen.
“How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! O LORD, they walk in the light of Your face. In Your name they rejoice all the day, and by Your righteousness they are exalted.” – Psalm 89:15-16 NASB
Many immigrants who came to America in the 19th century were overwhelmed with the freedom they found to worship God. G.D. Hall was among those who ministered to these grateful immigrants.
In August 1899, Hall held a series of services in a small prairie town where he found an intense hunger for God’s Word. Many who attended were poor, but they were “happy in Jesus and satisfied with their lot.”
Some lived in sod houses and had endured many trials. But Hall found that their faith gave them “power to soar above their circumstances.” And they had a great appetite for the Gospel.
Christians can learn many lessons from those immigrants. Amid our modern conveniences, we easily can focus on material comforts. But as those immigrants found, our joy should not be related to our external circumstances. We can experience the joy of the Lord no matter where we are, no matter what’s going on in the world, and no matter how much (or how little) money we have.
Think about your life. Are you so focused on your circumstances that you have forgotten about God? Don’t let anything distract you. Let the joy of the Lord fill your heart. Don’t place your hope in the possessions and pleasures of the world. Start praising God. Worship Him. Sing to Him. Thank Him for what He has done for you. And commit your life to Him.