Thursday, August 31, 2017

Spiritual Aerobics

In 2000, my husband underwent triple bypass heart surgery. Even after the surgery, he still got out of breath frequently. The doctors said two-thirds of his heart muscle, the part that pumps oxygen to the body, had been seriously damaged by the blockages.

Today, after losing weight and years of walking a couple miles a day, his heart muscle has been strengthened. It is still functioning at only fifty percent of normal, but it is twice as strong as prior to the surgery. Episodes of breathlessness are much less frequent, and he enjoys a fairly normal life. That improvement has been made possible by continually stressing his heart muscle through aerobic exercise.
Fireweed after a boreal fire in Alaska
Alaska, where I grew up, is noted for its vast fields of beautiful wildflowers. Vibrant fuchsia fireweed is the first regrowth after a wildfire. God exchanges beauty for ashes.

The seeds of other wildflowers must first endure a freezing winter before they can germinate and produce such beauty.

The cones of some conifers must first withstand a forest fire to release their seeds.

Winds blowing against trees strengthen their roots.

In military training, new recruits are pushed to the limit to prepare them to be able to endure the hardships of battle.

Athletes don't just go out and win without months of physical training.

A first grader doesn't immediately solve quadratic equations, but after years of schooling and testing, solving them becomes doable.

So it is with our Christian life. Hebrews 12:1, 2, describes the Christian life as running a race:

 "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." 

We need to develop spiritual muscles. We don't become mature Christians the moment we come to Christ. Tests and trials and tribulations strengthen our spiritual muscles. Life stretches us spiritually and teaches us to lean on Jesus.

No one is a greater blessing to others than one who has grown sweet and loving, but this doesn't just happen. It takes a long time to become saintly, and it doesn't happen without patiently enduring the tests and trials in the race called life.

Did you know that the benefits of patiently enduring don't end in this life? God has promised a crown of life to those who are faithful to love and serve Him in spite of the trials.
The next time you are tempted to gripe and complain about the trials you go through, remind yourself that they are the means by which God is growing Christ-like character in you. He doesn't cause bad things to happen to us. They are common to all. But God will make "all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" that we might "be conformed to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:28, 29, NKJV).

What trials have you weathered that have brought spiritual growth?

The main character, Violet, in my most recent book, Beside Still Waters, faced the choice of allowing the severe trials of her life to make her bitter or better. Notice that the only difference between those two words is the letter I. Taking your focus off yourself (I) and "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews, 12:2), makes all the difference.

Beside Still Waters is available in paperback and ebook. See my website ( for more information about the book. Available at Ambassador International, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and bookstores.

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