Time To Get Into Shape
Heb. 12:12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.
There are to be difficult times in the life of a believer and these can either make us weaker or stronger. After going through a particularly troubling time it may be easy to feel defeated and frustrated. Our hands are drooping — we simply can no longer lift them up in praise and worship of the Lord, or as Moses — they can no longer be lifted up for the battle. It’s all just been too hard. The hard knocks have also made our knees weak or feeble and somehow we wonder whether we can continue on with the race.
For the follower of Christ there will be difficulties and we have a choice to make in terms of response. Will we allow ourselves to continue to be defeated and for us to become weaker, or will we get into shape? We are encouraged to fight the tendency to allow our arms to droop — instead, pushing against the odds, lift up our drooping hands. Praise and worship God in the midst of the difficulties. Look for others who may be willing to help prop them up when we feel that we no longer have any strength.
Our weakened knees need to be strengthened so that we can continue the race. The only way to do that is to exercise so that the surrounding muscles will provide the needed strength. Our spiritual muscles must be exercised so that we can continue the race and when the pathway before us is strewn with rocks and pot-holes, we may need to stop and clean the path before us before we can go on.
Only by intentional effort, exercise and discipline can that which has been damaged be healed and the journey continue.
Personal confession here — it’s been a year of getting out of shape! I was elected to this position January 3, 2014 and I feel like I’ve been running a race ever since that has had very few moments for catching my breath, let alone exercise. Before I started this particular lap of my journey I used to exercise at least five mornings a week. Now, my entire routine has been shot as I have discovered how consuming my current responsibilities are and how day after day I wake up and wonder where I am as I travel to represent this great institution. Physically I can feel it — my clothes are tighter and my joints are weary. I need to get back into shape, and quite honestly the Lord and I have been having a conversation about how that is going to happen!
The same thing can happen to us spiritually. We can come to a period of time when things simply change and as we move through that transition we can get out of shape. We are tired and weary and the energy is sapped from our bones. No longer do we feel that we can keep going and little by little we get out of spiritual shape.
Just as it takes discipline (ouch!) to get back into physical shape, so it also takes discipline to get into and remain in spiritual shape. No one said it was going to be easy but there is something about perseverance and self-discipline that makes a difference. If our metaphoric hands are drooping — maybe we need to begin by finding others who will help to prop them up before we can find our own strength to continue.
Looking at the road in front of us we need to make sure we have straight paths for our feet. What are the stumbling blocks which need to be removed? Possibly there are distractions in life that keep us from the spiritual disciplines which we need to exercise in life. Maybe we simply need to remove them from our lives so that they are not a temptation to us and we need to do everything that we can to make the path smooth. That may include surrounding ourselves with those who will encourage us in the journey — friends who want us to succeed, rather than those who will be the stones that lead us to slip and fall.
Today we will celebrate the third Sunday of advent. Christ came into a very difficult world and there were times that he was battered and bruised by what he had to encounter. He regularly went off and took time to remain in shape spiritually, getting recharged by his time alone with the Father. May we use this season of advent to get into shape, anticipating the arrival of our Messiah. Then as we venture into the new year may we persevere in the journey, traveling on the highway of holiness to places where we have never yet been because of the strength that we find in him. Don’t give up — get into shape.
Lord, may your Spirit empower me to continue onward with you. Amen.