Are You Being Exercised into Spiritual Maturity?
It takes effort to stay free from offense. Paul compares it to exercising. If we exercise our bodies, we are less prone to injury.
While in Hawaii I climbed a wall to take a picture. When I did, I pulled a group of muscles in my knee and could not walk for four days. “If you had been exercising regularly,” the physical therapist told me, “This would not have happened. Because your muscles are out of shape, you are prone to injury.”
Once I was able to walk, another expert instructed me, “You must do these exercises to bring your knee muscles back into proper shape and condition.” It took a few months to get my knee back to normal.
Sometimes others offend us, and it is not hard to forgive. We have exercised our hearts so they are in condition to handle the offense; therefore, no injury or permanent damage results.
Many people could have climbed that wall in Hawaii and not been injured because they were in shape. Likewise, some are conditioned to obey God by exercising their hearts. Our degree of maturity determines how well we will handle an offense without injury.
Some offenses will be more challenging than those for which we’ve been trained. This extra strain may cause a wound or injury after which we will have to exercise spiritually to be free and healed again. But the result will be worth the effort.
The first step to healing and freedom is to recognize you are hurt. Often pride does not want us to admit we are hurt and offended. Once I admitted my true condition, I sought the Lord and was open to His correction.
We grow in the tough times, not the easy times. Hard places will always come in our journey with the Lord. We cannot escape them but need to face them, for they are part of the process of becoming perfect in Him. If you choose to run from them, you will seriously hinder your growth.
As you overcome different obstacles, you will be stronger and more compassionate. You will fall more in love with Jesus. If you have come out of hardships and do not feel this way, you have probably not recovered from the offense. Recovery is your choice. Some people get hurt and never recover. As cruel as this may sound, it was their choice.
Jesus learned obedience by the things He suffered. Peter learned obedience by the things he suffered. Paul learned obedience by the things he suffered. What about you? Have you learned? Or are you hard, calloused, cold, bitter, and resentful? Then you did not learn obedience.
Yes, it’s true that there are some offenses that will not go away like “water off a duck’s back.” You will have to work through them, striving to get free. But in that process, you will grow and mature.
Maturity does not come easily. If it did, all would attain it. Few reach this level of life because of the resistance they face. There’s resistance because the course of our society is not godly but selfish. The world is dominated by the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2).
As a result, to enter into the maturity of Christ there will be hardships that come from standing against the flow of selfishness.
Paul had returned to three cities where he birthed churches. His purpose was to strengthen the souls of the disciples. However, it is interesting to see how he strengthened them. He encouraged them by:
...exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” —Acts 14:22
He did not promise them a life of ease. He did not promise them success according to the world’s standards. He showed them that if they were going to finish their course with joy, they were going to meet up with much resistance that he called tribulation.
progress against the flow of the river. If you stop rowing and relax, you will eventually flow with the current. Even so, when we are determined to go God’s way we will meet up with many tribulations. The trials will all show the answer to one main question: Are you going to look out for yourself as the world does, or are you going to live a self-denied life?
Remember that when we lose our life for the sake of Jesus, we will find His life. Learn to fix your focus on the end result, not the struggle.
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