"We ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled..." ~ II Thes. 2:2 *** "But stir up the gift of God that is within you by the laying on of hands..." ~ II Tim. 1:6

Tag: christian living

Being “In Shape” – Spiritual Endurance

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified”

~ I Cor. 9:24-27

Everyone is born with a different innate level of athleticism—some people can go out and run a few miles without any training or warm-up, while others feel like they’re dying on that first mile and have to train for a 5K. But no one is born with innate endurance. It’s one thing to get out there and run a 5K without preparing, but even the most athletic person can’t go out and run a marathon without extensive training. Long-distance runners or triathletes train specifically for their races and shape their entire lives around their training regimen. Without this preparation, they’ll run out of gas and have nothing left for the final push to the finish line.

The fact is, we’re running a spiritual marathon, not a quick 5K. We need to understand what it takes to be spiritually “in shape” so we can endure to the end. The elements of a spiritual endurance training program are the same as those for a marathon runner—cardio, strength training, and diet, intensified with rest, discipline, motivation, and a commitment to finding and working on weaknesses.

Cardio – conditioning the heart

Controlling Anger

A while back I was re-listening to a sermon by Gary Petty in the “Agape” series (search by his name, they’re on the last page), the one on not being provoked. In it, he was talking about the difference between being angry, which is not inherently wrong or sinful, and how we react to or express our anger—which often is.

Anger is something I’ve always struggled with. Not blinding rage, per se, just extreme frustration with people, things, and situations. I learned at a young age to keep a choke chain on my temper, because when I was hurt I’d end up saying purposefully hurtful things (and I do have a way with words), things I would never say otherwise. As an adult, it hadn’t been as much of an issue until several years ago, when I was going through a period of extreme frustration with my job and life, and just felt angry all the time.

Anger–the emotion vs. what it drives us to do

Satan knows all the right buttons to push to send me on a downward mental spiral of frustration and anger—generally it has to do with being frustrated over what I see as someone else’s awesome life or career (which I think I deserve), or anger at how a certain situation went or someone treated me. Chances are, he knows your buttons too. I sit and run over it in my mind, totally destroying my mood and getting more and more angry. Basically, I make his job easy.

Comparison & Envy – The Key to Unhappiness

I recently listened to a three-part sermon series by Andy Stanley, the pastor for a bunch of the Atlanta megachurches, called “The Comparison Trap” (which is weirdly no longer available online).  He talked about the very natural and very destructive habit we have as humans to compare ourselves to each other—what possessions we have, our jobs, our kids, our overall lives.

But while it may be human nature to do this, there’s absolutely no way to win by comparing ourselves to others.  Or as Andy says, “there’s no ‘win’ in comparison”.

There are two sides to comparing ourselves to those around us—one is wanting what they have, while the other is using them to feel better about ourselves and our sins.  Neither is okay.  Comparison is the wide, easy path to both envy and self-righteousness.

“That should be me…” – the path to envy

“Better a handful with quietness [restfulness] than both hands full, together with toil [weariness, worry, travail] and grasping for the wind” (Eccl. 4:6)

In today’s society, the word envy has been softened, de-fanged.  It isn’t used as often as it once was (we typically use “jealousy” instead), but we might say we’re envious of someone’s long eyelashes, or the gorgeous car they’re driving.  We almost never use it in a negative way, but instead use it as a means to give someone a compliment.  If we think about it in a biblical context, it’s often relegated in our minds to a list of “minor” sins like gossip or slander.  However, envy (or jealousy) is frequently and direly warned against in the bible.  Many terrible things happened as a result of people giving in to envy—Joseph being sold into slavery, Cain killing Abel, Saul trying to kill David, the Pharisees delivering Jesus to be killed.  And the New Testament writers included it in many lists of sins, mixing it in there with murder, hate, disobedience, and unrighteousness (Rom. 1:28-34, Gal. 5:19-21, Tit. 3:3).  Why would such attention be paid to this sin that, to us, occurs in our minds and doesn’t seem to be hurting anybody else?

Biblical Meditation: What Does It Really Mean To Us?

The word meditation may conjure up all kinds of “woo woo” mental images, of soft sitar music and murmured chants and being told to “use your inner eye to look inside yourself” while candles and incense burn.  In other words, something we as Christians want nothing to do with.  This kind of New Age meditation has nothing to do with the bible, but the bible has much to say about meditation and its critical role in Christ’s disciples’ lives.

Of the four main spiritual “tools” we have for growing closer to God and becoming more like Him—prayer, bible study, fasting, and meditation—biblical meditation may be the least understood.  However, it’s the element that ties the other three together and makes them truly productive, so it’s paramount that we gain a better understanding of how we should be using it in our daily lives.

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