For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-8
A friend of mine and I used to work out in the high school weight room after the students would leave for the day. Honestly that time was as much about stress relief and fellowship as it was about exercise. We created a routine that we loosely followed, but sometimes spent a lot of time just sitting on the equipment venting and laughing about the day.
But our routine drastically changed the day that Mr. Doug Fields decided to join us. Doug was the long time strength and conditioning coach for many of our varsity sports. He was one of those guys with an intense stare…and you never knew when he was joking because of the intensity of his disposition. He was solid as a rock as well. He wasn’t tall but was all muscle…and attacked the bench press as if his life depended upon it.
Doug overheard my friend and I talking about our workouts one day and declared he would come up and join us. But he really didn’t understand how to just be “one of the guys” up in the weight room. He was perpetually in coaching mode, and it wasn’t long before he declared that he was going to whip the two of us into shape. And boy did he…
Doug had us working harder than ever before. There is was this one exercise we both hated. One of us would be lifting an arm curl bar with heavy weights while the other one was pushing down on that same bar in order to provide resistance. Doug didn’t believe in the modern day fancy resistance machines; his mode was more like Rocky IV, training in Communist Siberia.
He believed that pain was the way to increase strength. And so he screamed in our faces and pushed us to our limits. It was intense…but I was also never stronger than after those four months with Doug. But I have to say I was glad when his schedule changed and he could no longer meet with us!
No pain…no gain. Some scholars would argue that the Sermon on the Mount is Christ’s version of a Doug Fields workout session. C.S. Lewis was once accused by one of his contemporaries of not “caring for” the Sermon on the Mount. He reply was as follows: “if ‘caring for’ here means ‘liking’ or enjoying, I suppose no one ‘cares for’ it. Who can like being knocked flat on his face by a sledge hammer? I can hardly imagine a more deadly spiritual condition than that of a man who can read that passage with tranquil pleasure.”
Indeed, Jesus does work us hard. He humbles us with His teachings and challenges us to go above and beyond the letter of God’s law, shining His light with radical love. But as much as it is challenging, it is equally as encouraging. He never asks to us meet these teachings alone and reminds us of His presence. Nor does He ask for our perfection, but only that we be continually perfected by His love… growing into His likeness.
Folks like Dru that have had knee replacement surgery can understand the challenge. At first it is really painful to walk with brand new parts that are not your own. But in time, with a lot of physical therapy and a whole lot of pain you become one with the new replacement.
As for Christ’s teachings, it can be painful to teach an independent spirit to surrender control, train the flesh not to give into every impulse, or exercise love over legalism. Yet as our likeness begins to conform to His, He gives us every bit of strength, peace, and joy to finish our race. As we come down the final stretch of our Matthew study, and as we move closer to a new home, may we continue allow Christ to build our spiritual muscle so that we are ready for that which lies ahead.
-- Pastor Justin
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