Faith muscle

Dumbbell

After getting in to Trinity and winning a scholarship, I had that “on top of the world” feeling for about three weeks. But reality has begun to set in, and despite God’s obvious hand in the process there are still some big unanswered questions. Yes, my tuition and housing are covered, but how are we going to afford food? And clothing? And diaper wipes? And all the other little things that constitute life? Will I be able to study full-time and hold down a job? Will that take me away from my family too much?

As I casually mentioned these concerns to someone recently, she replied, “Yeah, there’s always something.”

The words were simple enough, but I realized it’s true that there is “always something.” I don’t mean that in a negative way, and I don’t think she did either. The Lord simply puts things in our lives to keep us coming back to him for answers. Otherwise we’d be tempted to say, “Thanks, God for everything you’ve done, but I’ve got it from here. I think I can handle it.”

Last week in a home group a man commented that we need to keep building our “faith muscle.” It resonated with me that faith is a “use it or lose it” situation like muscle. Muscle and faith grow through tension and pain.

I never liked working out much. It required too much work for imperceptible short-term results. It took weeks, even months to see any change and I just didn’t have the patience. Plus, you had to go through a lot of discomfort. Guys in the gym were always grunting, sweating, grimacing and groaning.

I ran on the cross country team my last year in high school. Although I was admittedly not a great runner, I was in pretty good shape. Races were only 3.1 miles, but we ran up to 9 miles in practices. I remember writing an essay in senior English about how I was going to keep up my running discipline for the rest of my life.

Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

Fast forward 17 years. The house we are renting has a treadmill, and Abby and I are easing ourselves into the idea that maybe (just maybe) we should do something to get in shape. I tried the treadmill for the first time a couple weeks ago–I huffed and puffed and made it to my goal of running for 20 minutes nonstop.

The treadmill told me I had run less than 2 miles. I figure it’s defective.

Use it or lose it.

As I was reading Deuteronomy, I saw an example of the Lord calling the Israelites to use their faith muscle:

If you say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?’ you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the Lord your God brought you out. So will the Lord your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. (Deut. 7:17-19)

The enemies Israel would be facing were bigger and stronger than them. And there wasn’t just one enemy–there were seven (Deut. 7:1). To say it was a new challenge is putting it lightly. It was going to take a miracle to beat even one of them.

Notice that God wanted them to draw on their past experiences with Him. “You shall remember” (v. 18). Remember because that is what was going to teach them that God will do similar (not the same) miracles now in this new situation.

If we want to build faith muscle, we’ll have to do something we’ve never done before. There is always a first time you lift 150 lbs. and 250 lbs. and 350 lbs.

The stakes for faith, though, are much higher than pumping iron. Yes, maybe God has brought us to the edge of a new challenge that is bigger or different than the ones we’ve faced before. But we have a choice. We can strap on our armor and fight an enemy that God has promised victory over or we can retreat back to what’s familiar and “safe.”

If we don’t use the faith God gives us, we will lose it.

That’s all for now. I’m not getting any fitter just looking at the treadmill…

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