Have you ever wondered why your muscles hurt when you exercise? Well okay, if you’re like me, maybe you don’t really exercise enough to wonder about that; but have you ever wondered why other people’s muscles hurt when they exercise? As silly as it may seem, I have wondered about it. So I turned to Google; and do you know what I learned? I learned that when you work a muscle beyond what it is comfortable with, it tears. So muscles get sore when you exercise because, all through each muscle are tiny little tears from being pushed beyond what it was previously comfortable doing. After a short time (about a week), the tears in the muscle have healed and the muscle has become a little stronger than it was before.
This made me think of how you and I grow spiritually and how each time we exercise a fruit of the Spirit, we get a little stronger in that area and are then able to endure more and more.
Think about that for a minute.
I’m sure you have heard the warning,”Don’t pray for patience or you will end up in situation after situation where patience is required of you!” Have you ever heard someone say something like that?
Well. I’ll be honest. That statement is true! When we need to grow stronger in a certain area of spiritual discipline, what better way to exercise that Spiritual muscle than to actually use it, to work it and push it beyond our comfort zone? The more often we are faced with situations in which we are forced to exercise each fruit of the Spirit, the easier it becomes to produce that fruit; and the more evident that fruit becomes in your life.
But you know what? Just like our physical muscles get sore when we work them, it is very often painful when we have to exercise our spiritual muscles. Growth and strength do not come without effort or without pain.
When I look at my life now; when I think about the many things that I deal with on a regular basis, I can see how I have become much stronger over the years. Had I been forced to deal with all of these issues as a brand new Christian with the spiritual muscles of a baby Christian, I have no doubt that I would have broken under the pressure. There is just no way that I would have had the strength to endure. God knew that too and He was merciful to me. He didn’t allow all of these things to bombard me at the same time or suddenly. Troubles came a little bit at a time. It wasn’t until I learned to deal with one problem and became stronger in the fruit I needed for that particular situation, that He allowed another problem to arise.
I am thankful for each opportunity that He has given me to cultivate the fruits of the Spirit in me and to continue to grow into the woman that He wants me to be, but I am grateful that those opportunities didn’t come all at one time!
Sometimes, when we are feeling particularly overwhelmed… and maybe even feeling a little sorry for ourselves… we take inventory of our past and present problems. We look at the lives of those we know and then we look back over our list of woes and we think, “Wow! It seems to be just one problem right after another for me! I scarcely make it through one trial before another begins! Why can’t I have an easier time of it?”
I know that feeling and those thoughts. I have even gone beyond merely thinking these things. I have said these things out loud. I have screamed them at heaven, demanding an answer that would satisfy my self pity.
You know what? God answered me. Of course He didn’t speak aloud or even speak in a voice inside my head, answering my question with just a few simple sentences. But in that way that He usually does, He sent the answer straight to my spirit and I just knew that there was a purpose for our constant struggles. He loves us way too much to allow needless suffering. You see, just as I said before, the more we use the fruits of the Spirit, the easier it becomes to use them and the stronger our spirit becomes. That is important because our spirit is constantly at war with our flesh. The stronger our spirit becomes, the weaker our flesh (our sinful nature) becomes. If God shelters us from trials to the point that we never exercise our spirit, the weaker we become spiritually. The fruits of the spirit will never be cultivated in our lives. They will never grow. Only our sinful nature will grow in power, to the point that we are completely ruled by it. Jesus said that those who believe in Him would be evident by the fruit that they bear (Matthew 7:16, 20). We can only bear one of two kinds of fruit. It will either be fruits born of the spirit or of the flesh. There is no in between. There is no middle ground. In Galatians, in speaking of the importance of walking in the spirit instead of the flesh, the apostle Paul had this to say, “16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident:sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self- control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16-25 ESV) You see? It is a matter of eternity. Paul warns us in verse 21 that those who live according to the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God. If our Father didn’t allow us to exercise the fruits of the spirit as we make our way through the trials of this life; if these fruits didn’t grow in us… even though it can be painful… then we would be completely ruled by the sinful nature of the flesh and ultimately, instead of inheriting the kingdom of God, we would receive the end result of our sin. We would receive death. We would receive hell.
Do you know what this same apostle [Paul] had to say about the struggles and trials that we face here in this life? He said this, “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.” (Romans 8:18-19) How awesome is that!? The sufferings of this life here on earth… the worst we could ever go through here… isn’t even worthy to be compared with the glory that is coming to those who belong to Christ! Wow! Remember how we can tell who belongs to Him? Yep… by the fruits that are manifest in their lives. We either see the fruits of the flesh or the fruits of the spirit. The fruits that we will see are the ones that have been exercised the most and have grown the strongest. Remember what makes those fruits of the spirit grow stronger than the fruits of the flesh? USING them; EXCERCISING them. Yes it’s painful, but it is more than worth it!