Stronger

“Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10 NIV)

Beware!  We are now entering that time of the year that is deadly to our diets and way too generous with our waistlines. Or, more to the point, the time of year when our waistlines become more generous. The time of year between Halloween and the New Year.

It starts off innocently enough. You pass out candy for the trick or treaters and hey, why not have one  for yourself? They can’t hurt you. After all, they are fun sized. A little fun couldn’t hurt.  And perhaps I’ll go through the kid’s candy they collected. I don’t want them to have too much sugar.  In  way I’m doing them a favor by eating it.

We steam roll (mmm rolls.) into Thanksgiving and we don’t stop eating until we come up for air sometime after New Year’s Day.  And often dive back in for the Super Bowl.  All of which can be devastating to our waistlines, not to mention our cholesterol levels, sugar levels etc.

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Now this is not meant to shame you into not enjoying oneself during the holidays. Actually far from it. It does, I hope, serve as a reminder that God calls us to be good stewards of all that we have including our health. And so in the middle of enjoying the Holidays,having some moderation, eating as carefully as we can, and experiencing isn’t a bad precaution.

Exercise is , of course, critical to our overall well-being. I appreciate the current trend in exercise that moves us away from a certain weight or becoming too thin. Body shaming, especially for young ladies has become an increasing problem that can out our youth at risk both physically and emotionally.

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We are finally realizing that overall health is more important that  reaching a certain weight.  Exercise now is about strength. We strengthen our core. We strengthen our cardiovascular system We streghten our muscular system. There are plenty of studies that say when we work on our strength, especially with some sort of weight training we can actually strengthen  our skeletal system as well.

The results are that we can stay stronger and healthier longer in life often avoiding many of the stereotypes of what it means to be a senior citizen.  Many assisited living facilities have state of the art gyms and are often full of people experiencing and putting many younger people to shame.   I recently saw a piece on a man who is over 100 who completed a marathon. That might boggle the mind now, but as we continue to work on our strength that could become a common place event.

Of course that fellow didn’t reach his 100th birthday and decide to run.  He came from an active lifestyle that give him much of the strength he needed to be able to run. He needed the strength to be able to withstand the righteous of training as well as the race itself.  From his story, and many others, it should become obvious to us that becoming stronger produces untold benefits.

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So what are you doing to get stronger spiritually? What are you doing to strengthen the spiritual core of your life? What are you doing to provide your spirit with the type of “cardio vascular” strength that will enable to run the race Christ has set before you?  Are you more concerned with looking good as a “church goer” or do you want to become stronger in your discipleship?

It seems to me that while most Christians agree that becoming spiritually strong is a good idea few of us truly engage in the proper practices that will produce the results we want. Or we engage in the wrong practices, often working hard yet we don’t really feel as if we are any stronger.

How do we become srronger spiritually? Look again at this verse from Nehemiah. It might be a fairly well known verse, even if you don’t know where it comes from. But here Nehemiah proclaims that “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”  Read it again.  The Joy of the Lord is our strength.  It doesn’t say serving on a committee is our strength.  Our being involved in a church service project is our strength. Not even teaching Sunday School is our strength. Nehemiah, who was in the middle of a building project by the way, didn’t say the stewardship and tithing is our strength.

Now these are all things that we as Christians ought to do. Please understand this. All I am saying is the bible doesn’t say, as important as these things are and as necessary as they are, they aren’t in and of themselves the well strong from which we derive our strength.  No, our strength comes for the”Joy of the Lord”.  How does the joy of the Lord make us stronger?

The Joy of the Lord comes when we learn to enjoy the presence of God and the Body of Christ.  I really think they are inseparable. If you don’t enjoy being in the body of Christ how can you enjoy being in God’s presence? And surely if you don’t enjoy, really enjoy, being in the presence of God how can you find any joy from being a part of the Body of Christ?   God loves it when we spend time with Him and when we enjoy spending time with one another. The more we cultivate a heart sensitive to the presence of God and appreciative of being  a part of the Body of Christ, as faulty as it may be at times, the stronger we will become.

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We become stronger when we live our lives in a way that makes God happy. The Joy of the Lord is our strength. I’ve had many conversations with people over the years asking me “What is my purpose in life?” I’ve found what they usually mean is “What should I be doing as a job?” The truth is living a life that gives God joy is our purpose in life. and the more we live a life we believe will give God joy the stronger our spirits will become.

Laugh more.Chrisitnas take themselves far too seriously. Now we should take the Trinity seriously. And we shoud take our salvation and the salvation of the world seriously. But joyless Christians don’t do anyone  any good. Whenever we laugh, as long as it doesn’t demean anyone else, we invite ourselves in the presence of God.  If God is the creator  of joy wouldn’t it make sense that we would honor the creator by enjoying His creation? Take time today to laugh at something, even if it’s yourself.  You’ll be the stronger for it.

Strengthening your spirit won’t just happen. You have to work at it. You have to train. Butt its worth it. The Joy of the Lord is our strength!

 

Amen.

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