. . . Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. Acts 14:22
Though I wasn’t particularly good at it, I wrestled through college. Part of why I wasn’t very good was that I just didn’t work as hard as I should have. I was lazy in the off-season, and about halfway through the actual season, I became apathetic, dreading every afternoon’s practice. Why? Because practice was hard, miserable work.
Now, every day, as I get up and blog at 4:30AM so I can get to the gym by 6AM, I look forward to the day’s workout. With pleasure, I daily put myself through physical discomfort. Why? Because I want to be stronger and I know that muscles only grow by stressing them.
If we all naturally had strength, simply by wishing it to be so, we’d never need to exercise. As it is though, if we want to be stronger, we must strain our muscles because they only grow under stress. Once we grow, we maintain only by continuing to work on it. If we stop, our muscles weaken. It takes discomfort to grow and to maintain.
Paul and Barnabas taught that a similar principle applies to our spiritual lives. When we come to faith, we’re not made perfect. Though God’s Spirit dwells in us when we come to Christ, we don’t become spiritual giants all at once. Our spiritual maturity, like a muscle, can grow or shrink, depending on whether it’s exercised or not.
We may not like it, but our spiritual life is often grown only through times of need and trial. When life is easy and we have no need, we’re rarely desperate for God. When things are good, we read and pray less, embracing the illusion of self-sufficiency. It’s often only when we have no other hope, that we turn urgently to God. It’s in times of need that we develop and strengthen our spiritual muscles.
Where I once dreaded the grind of daily physical exercise, I now look forward to it. Why? My attitude is different now. I want to grow, even though I know it’s uncomfortable to do so.
It seems that our attitude makes all the difference. Trials are never going to be fun, but if we use our need to turn our gaze towards God, following him, we begin to understand that it’s in those times that we become more like who he made us to be.