“I’m feeling that God wants to remind us this morning that we are soldiers on a training program. There is a war going on, between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. Of course we all know that Christ has already won it, at the cross, but that doesn’t make the battles any less intense now. Where we usually experience this war the most keenly in our own lives is quite simply in the war between the flesh and the spirit. The Bible tells us that the two are in conflict with each other: “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” (Gal 5 17 NIV) I think God is going to increasingly give us opportunities to hear and obey his word in personal areas now, so that we can grow as overcomers in the spirit in order to be fit for greater battles that may lie ahead. We cannot grow without exercise.“
Above is the word that I had for the church this morning (25th Oct 2020). Some reflections follow.
A common form of exercise is weight training. Weight training is just one form of resistance training, which refers to any form of exercise that causes the muscles to contract against an external source of resistance, causing an increase in strength, power, endurance etc. The apostle James gives us an exercise in resistance training. He says “resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) Paul writes: “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” So when the devil – or one of his legions, that is – comes and dangles a temptation in from of our flesh, we need to remember that God has allowed it because he wants our spirits to grow in strength and endurance. Temptation is an exercise in resistance training; spiritual weight-lifting.
However the body of Christ isn’t built up to look good in front of a mirror, but to carry on the work of the Kingdom of God in the hostile environment of a fallen world. On an occasion when Jeremiah was telling God how difficult his life was, the Lord said to him: “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5) The answer to the question God put to Jeremiah is that we do it through training and practice. Small steps lead to bigger ones; small weights to bigger ones. The Christian life is not static. One step on the water today before Jesus has to pull us out; but two tomorrow. And the beauty of it is this: when we do “compete with horses” we are ready for them, and it’s no more of a struggle than “racing against men on foot.”
Paul alluded sometimes to the many trials he faced as he continued to “press (a resistance word!) on towards the goal for the prize of of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14) By the time he wrote to the Ephesians Paul had done a lot of pressing. His heartfelt prayer for them, and through the words given to him by the Holy Spirit a prayer of Jesus for us as He intercedes before the Father, is “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3: 16-19)
The Ephesians 3 prayer lists three wonderful consequences of being “strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” – they all start with the word “that.” Do we want to be “filled with all the fullness of God?” Part of God’s plan for us is that we do our resistance exercises.