This morning I listened to a sermon by Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones. The topic was exercise. It began with Ephesians 6:10-13 as the basis for his sermon. It was quite a convicting sermon. The discussion was less about physical exercise and more on spiritual exercise. Dr. Lloyd-Jones warned that if we were not strong in God’s Word how could we stand and if we could not stand how could we teach.
I love this passage in Ephesians, but I had never really thought about exercise when I read it…
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:10-13 (ESV)
Looking at this passage in this light I realized the need we have for Spiritual strength… “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood”(vs 12). And where do we find this exercise but in God’s Word?
Strength From Exercise
We need strength if we are to endure. We need strength if we are to share the word with others and teach as we have been taught. It takes an effort to build that strength. Paul complained to those at the church in Corinth… He wanted them to teach but he could not give them the tools they needed because they did not have the strength of understanding. He was disappointed and did not hold back in 1Corinthians 3:
2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 1 Corinthians 3:2 (ESV)
He was also harsh to the audience of the book of Hebrews 5.
11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:11-14 (ESV)
Conviction and Self-Examination
These two passages jarred me a bit. They both spoke of a need for strength. In Hebrews, the writer charged that everyone should be prepared to teach. It is not just up to the preacher or the Sunday School teacher, but everyone… But in Hebrews 5:13-14 the writer warns that they are not ready…
13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:11-14 (ESV)
That drove me to prayer and self-examination. Am I ready… Then I thought back to my physical shape and I will just say that it is not what it once was; and why? I used to exercise my body… water skied all summer, stayed active in the winter… hiked in the woods… But today let’s just say I am not quite as svelte as I once was…
Now if that can happen to the physical body isn’t there the same risk for my spirit?
Training for the Race
Paul reminds me in 1Corinthians 9:24-27 that this is a race and there is only one that will get a prize. He reminds me that athletes train… but he reminds me also that there is no rest for anyone.
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV)
Verse 27 kind of gave me a bit of a chill. In verse 27 Paul admits that he too must exercise because he does not want to be disqualified. Paul is the guy that wrote much of the new testament and he warns that He too needs to be in harmony with God. He must know the Word of God and He must not slack off for any reason.
I found myself back in Hebrews chapter 10 remembering that I must hold on…
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV)
As I contemplate this passage I am reminded that I cannot do this completely on my own. I need the fellowship of other believers. We need to be there for each other. Yes, we need to exercise to build our own strength but like a team we must be there to encourage each other to be strong in God’s word.
Strength in Numbers
I am reminded of a passage that turned out to be in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (I had to google it… that’s faster than the concordance).
9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (ESV)
Maybe you cannot appreciate the full magnitude of this until you have fallen when alone and not been able to get up… and I am not talking about the commercial… the fall is not always physical. We cannot do this as well on our own.
There is strength in the body of Christ. The Church is not perfect, but if we strive together it can be better than it was. I am thankful to have a Church family we all struggle with something, but our weakness is God’s strength. He may choose to use someone else in my Church to lift me up when I have fallen.
I know that I do not exercise like I should every day. Billy Graham even admitted that if he had it to do over again he would spend more time in prayer and study. But I do strive and I draw on the strength of my Savior Jesus Christ and those he places in my life.
I want to close with the Benediction from Hebrews 13:20-21
20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV)