The test I’m dealing with right now; it’s not the battle to generate information. This is not like a legal trial; myself against the other lawyer in the red suit. I’m not competing with evil to create my side of the story while the devil creates his. That was done thousands of years ago.
Lucifer tried to create a new side of the story that God already wrote. It didn’t work; and, as I’ve said many times, that devil was slapped down like a kid reaching into the unauthorized cookie jar. He’s been defeated and disarmed with one exception, the tools he uses to battle for the human mind. While there isn’t a shred of a chance that he can outpace God, he can still deceive us into going astray. And that is what I’m fighting right now.
I’m not bad at it
The attempted battle blows are clearly and cleanly lined up in my life. Some past, some present, some future. Some being:
There are entire professions dedicated to making biblical Christians look nutty (A biblical Christian, to me, is one who does not manipulate the manual to life to their own advantage. More specifically to this article, one who is aware of spiritual warfare). Been faced with people who call the concept crazy my entire life; people who judge without knowing and slap on convenient labels like schizophrenia or certifiable.
There are entire churches and systems of churches that focus more on safe messages, entertainment and flash; while rarely, actually engaging in the Gospel of Christ and the word of God. Seen and dodged many of them too.
I’ve made it through many times of my faith being challenged when hardship comes without enough information to support it.
The list of pitfalls goes on and on. So far, I’ve gotten this far, and I’m still looking to the Holy Trinity for my safety.
The trauma of faith/spiritual strength training
As I said in Faith no Matter What:
“You grab a weight, lift, let down, repeat. Each rep (repetition) gets harder. And now comes the somewhat scary, painful part... micro-trauma. When you lift that weight, as you do more and more reps and sets; you actually start to create tiny, microscopic tears in the muscle. You’re actually damaging your body. This is why you end up sore for a few days after. As those microscopic tears heal, new and bigger muscle fiber grows over the tears to repair them. Once healed, the muscle group is just slightly bigger and, in turn, stronger.”
Faith is just like strength training, in fact, it is strength training. You face a tough situation in life, it causes damage. Instead of needing complete protein to fuel the healing of a muscle (with physical strength training); you need information to fuel the healing of the heart, mind and spirit (with spiritual strength training).
To help heal the muscle, we get the protein from off of our plate. To heal the spirit, heart and mind; we get the information from God, Christ and the Holy Ghost.
Sometimes the spiritual damage we heal from is microscopic. Sometimes it’s huge. But in any case; if we’re fed with good information and properly rested; we heal and only get deeper into the love and light of God.
When we're new to strength training (physical or faith-based)
When you first start a physical workout program, it can be quite intimidating.
You have to learn everything, from proper form while lifting, to how many reps (repetitions), to good breathing technique, to how it feels when you get close to being done. The list goes on and on. You have to keep record and climb a learning curve.
Through the first sessions you’ll be new and a bit taken aback by the soreness and healing process. Then comes proper rest and nutrition that helps support the creation of new muscle.
Faith is like this. The first churches I visited were like the first weight rooms I’ve ever been in. The early learning process of who God is and how I fit with him, is like the moments in the gym when I thought “what do I do with this complicated machine?” (As a side note, take my church going with a grain of salt. I will be posting more on the sometimes difficult navigation of that later.)
The seasoned trainer
When I first went into the gym, I had to constantly think about, build and track, every little step. Same thing went for my faith. As with anything we learn to do, we slowly memorize modules. As we memorize, things become smoother and more efficient.
So now, instead of walking in the gym, looking at my paper that tells me how much weight to use, how many reps, etc; I just look around and think about what I want to do first, grab a weight and go. And respectively; Instead of having to always reference a Bible when I go into a spiritual milestone or battle, I just work with prayer, spit out a few scriptures, face my challenge and go. That’s my new norm and it works most of the time. But sometimes I find new goals and challenges in strength training (both spiritual and physical).
If I need to physically reshape something in my body, work around an injury or adjust to a demand of getting older, I have to look up new exercises and dietary changes. And then there are times when my faith is challenged severely. In which case I often need to find new information about my relationship with God (starting with asking Him).
The hardest moments
When I’m using weights to build physical muscle there’s always a pattern. My first few reps and sets are relatively easy. But as I keep lifting and repeating, each rep gets harder. And in the last 1-2 reps it starts to seem almost impossible. It burns. Your head starts to feel a bit explosive and it’s a struggle to keep composure. All I wanna do on that last rep is drop the weight early, step away and breathe. Everything in me screams “MAKE IT STOP!”. But through that moment I keep 3 things in mind, and keep going:
If I quit early I my muscle won’t grow. I won’t be stronger than I was before the training. I just need that tiny bit of extra push to make it all worth it.
The end of the struggle is right in front of me.
If I don’t keep good form, I could cause damage.
Faith is like this also. The first so many reps are pretty easy. Reading the Bible, praying, etc; they're somewhat standard things. But as the repetition continues, and the deeper I get into faith; the more challenging the training becomes. Why? Because the enemy is fine if you’re a by-standing Christian or a non Christian.
If you still engage in sin and addiction, look at porn, drink excessively, smoke weed or anything of the like, the devil will not care about your behavior much. It's not an insult and I'm not judging you. It's just a logical truth and I was there once myself not long ago. The devil doesn't have to work to open doors that are already open.
But the moment you dig deep and look for a stronger relationship with God; the moment you decide to work on closing doors of addiction and bad behavior, your actions are no longer acceptable to the enemy. The devil would like to believe he can steal every one of God’s children from him. He doesn’t sit in an easy chair with a remote. He gets up and digs in.
And then, as with the moment that sparked this article, my last article and the new social group; in comes the last rep of the moment. Life’s tests become exceedingly hard, feeling almost impossible. It hurts. My head starts to feel a bit explosive and it’s a struggle to keep composure. All I wanna do on this last rep is drop the spiritual weight early, step away and breathe. And as with physical training, the three rules apply:
If I quit early I my faith won’t grow. I won’t be stronger than I was before the training.
The end of the struggle is right in front of me.
If I don’t keep good form, I could cause damage.
Keeping good form
In physical strength training, proper form is hugely important. That means I have to stand in a solid position, hold my back straight and isolate my movement to only the muscle group I’m working on. If I do all of that, I maximize my results and eliminate unwanted damage.
The same thing happens with faith-based strength training. If my form is poor, everything gets sloppy and out of bounds. And this is something I’m currently working on (at the time of publishing this article, late 2019). When I’m pushed and things become a fight, I have to stick to what the manual to life tells me. Keep praying, keep reading scripture, resist temptation and check my tongue.
This is incredibly hard when, as with physical training, all I want to do is scream “MAKE IT STOP!” It’s harder with spiritual strength training because I can’t see the end of the trial like I can with physical training.
This is when I have to dig in. Even though it’s painfully difficult sometimes, I have to hold on, pray, read and go deep into God’s shelter. In doing this repeatedly, I’m starting to recognize the moments when I’m in training and hold on more efficiently. I'm starting to realize that there's always a reward for holding on and God is always right behind me.
In any case
In any case, new or seasoned faith; like new or matured physical strength training; there is pain. The good news is, in any case, there is healing. The even better news is, in any case, as long as we properly support our training, the other side of the moment leaves us stronger, healthier, more likely to ward off blows and more ready to take on the heavier stuff. And the heavier the load, the deeper and more inviting the rewards.
Links mentioned above
Faith no Matter What (article) - Faith can be an incredibly trying thing. All Christians go through transitions that test it.
right behind me (short video) - Excessive stress. Questioned faith. Finding an anchor when life won't easily lend.
The Bible - What is it and how do I Read? (article) - The Bible is not just a book. It appears that way; but it’s actually more sophisticated and, I think, pretty cool... it’s a portable library.
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