Feel Bad and Feel Great

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”- James 1:2-3

The other day I woke up to a wrestling match. My groggy-eyed challenge wasn’t fighting for the covers that were pulled away from me; and it wasn’t being awoken suddenly from a dream that felt so real that it caused sweat, despair, and complete disorientation. No, it had to do with how my planned workout at the gym was in serious jeopardy based on how I was feeling. After some time of internal deliberation, I decided to fight through my morning malaise and make it to the gym for my workout. By pushing through my initial sense of weariness and “blah”ness, I left the workout with a higher than normal sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. It was as if my body was telling me, “Good job Leaf of fighting through the pain and getting the job done!

The spiritual muscle memory I received from that morning workout is what can be GAINED when we endure through the resistance of TRIALS. I know that this is true of my physical exercise regimen. When I feel great and go to the gym, the workout is still profitable, but I do not feel the same sense of achievement as when I need to fight through the soreness, the weariness, and the pain. There is something rewarding, overcoming, and faith-building about pushing through the circumstances and the obstacles. Consider some of the powerful instructions we are given from the Bible that speaks to our spiritual training and faith exercise:

Matthew 24:13- “But the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

2 Timothy 2:12- “If we endure, we will also reign with Him.

2 Timothy 4:7- “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

1 Corinthians 9:25- “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

James 1:2- “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

Hebrews 10:36- “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.

What makes this lesson even more meaningful is that the Holy Spirit has allowed me to share this image/truth with a few people who are navigating a maze of challenges. I have been able to encourage those who are tired, broken down, and struggling to take another step forward. I have told them how amazingly satisfying it will be when we get past this season (despite how they feel and whatever their faith level is at) and we look back at it from the other side of God’s answer, blessing, and resounding victory! I can’t wait to go from just CHEERING them on during the race to standing when they CROSS finish line.

Consider adding the following exercises to your “faith training” program so that your endurance levels will increase when you find yourself facing an uphill, highly intense, and perhaps even long-term obstacle:

  1. Don’t Revert to Former Practices

You may be questioning the benefit of following Jesus or you may be looking to something other than faith to bring you through the hard times. Just remember, as hard as the season you are facing today is, the option of turning back only leads us back into being spiritually enslaved and imprisoned. Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

2. Keep Praying for God’s Answer to be Released to your Need

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are instructed to, “pray continually.” I believe this means we are to pray until God’s answer arrives at our doorstep. I am more and more convinced that we are to contend in prayer for the areas in our lives that our lacking. I believe that until we see God’s heart and hand at work in any area of our life we are to keep bringing that need into His throne of grace.

3. Find a Faith Partner to Walk with

We need each other! One of the keys to any person’s success is having a great support system (family, friends, neighbor, church, etc.). Having someone to talk to, pray with, ask advice from, and confess our struggles to is vital to pushing forward on God’s path. Galatians 6:2 calls us to, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

4. Be Shaped by God’s Word

Take time daily to meditate on the Bible. Whether you read one verse or several, allow the Holy Word to be your anchor of hope, your foundation of truth, and your portion of strength. By dwelling on the Word, you will keep yourself from dwelling on stuff! Romans 15:14 declares “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

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