Ex­er­cis­ing your spir­i­tual mus­cles


“We even take pride in our prob­lems, be­cause we know that trou­ble pro­duces en­durance, en­durance pro­duces char­ac­ter, and char­ac­ter pro­duces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, be­cause the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Ro­mans 5:3-5 (Com­mon English Bi­ble)

“You know it’s win­ter when dead wood starts fall­ing around.” I re­mem­ber my mom say­ing th­ese words a few years ago af­ter she had taken a tum­ble which landed her in some phys­i­cal ther­apy. Well, it must be win­ter be­cause ap­par­ently I have had the same prob­lem. In the last year, I have man­aged to mis­man­age my steps three times, each time land­ing me on the hard ground, and fi­nally land­ing me in phys­i­cal ther­apy.

My won­der­ful ther­a­pists at New­ton Med­i­cal Cen­ter have worked with me, have given me new ex­er­cises and have en­cour­aged me as I have worked out some of the is­sues in my creaky limbs, but it has not been easy nor with­out pain. They have taught me to en­dure, how­ever, and it is start­ing to pay off as the pain sub­sides.

Some­times we have spir­i­tual pains that need to be worked out as well. The Apos­tle Paul tells us that our prob­lems will pro­duce in us en­durance and that through our en­durance, we can build spir­i­tual char­ac­ter which in turn gives us hope. Work­ing spir­i­tual mus­cles is never a walk in the park and comes with some­times painful prun­ing of habits or at­ti­tudes that weigh us down, but with the proper en­durance in the right di­rec­tion, we can build our spir­i­tual mus­cles.

Dur­ing the past two weeks, I have walked with sev­eral fam­i­lies through tragedies and ter­mi­nal ill­nesses that have weighed heav­ily on all of our hearts and lives. In the midst of trauma and tragedy, we of­ten can­not even pray for our­selves be­cause words just will not come. It is for those times that we need strong spir­i­tual mus­cles. We build our faith and Chris­tian char­ac­ter in the good times so that even in the dark­est times of our lives, we will have hope. At those times when we can’t even think of the words, the Holy Spirit in us prays for us, even in­ter­pret­ing our groans and sighs into prayers that God un­der­stands.

So how do we ex­er­cise and build those spir­i­tual mus­cles? We use daily spir­i­tual ex­er­cises that John Wes­ley called the Means of Grace — the meth­ods by which we build our faith: Bi­ble study, prayer, fast­ing, Chris­tian fel­low­ship, wor­ship­ing in com­mu­nity, and par­tak­ing of the Sacra­ments of Bap­tism and Holy Com­mu­nion. How are you build­ing your spir­i­tual mus­cles to­day?

Rev. Jan McCoy is the as­so­ciate pas­tor of Cov­ing­ton First United Methodist Church in down­town Cov­ing­ton. She may be reached at jan.mccoy@ngumc.net.

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