Monday, January 17, 2011

Washing with Sweat - MUSCLE CONFUSION

… to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, Ephesians

Around the gym these days “muscle confusion” workouts are highly regarded. I have always understood this to simply be cross training.  

Cross training is a great way to condition different muscle groups, develop a new set of skills, and reduce boredom that creeps in after months of the same exercise routines. Cross training also allows you the ability to vary the stress placed on specific muscles or even your cardiovascular system. After months of the same movements your body becomes extremely efficient performing those movements, and while that is great for competition, it limits the amount of overall fitness you possess and reduces the actual conditioning you get while training; rather than continuing to improve, you simply maintain a certain level of fitness. Cross training is also necessary to reduce the risk of injury from repetitive strain or overuse.

This week I was reminded that if I have spiritual habits that are repetitive I may only experience God in a limited one dimensional way. That is to say, I may become extremely efficient at service but be weak in prayer, coming to repentance, exercising grace, trusting God, surrendering to obedience or allowing renewal in my mind.

Developing new skill sets in which we can experience God in deeper more fulfilling ways expands our “spiritual fitness.” If we exercise the same disciplines routinely we limit the amount of overall faith we posses; rather than continuing to improve, we will simply maintain a murmur of faith rather than a fullness of joy.

I often find myself mocking the Israelites for falling in to unbelief, “How could they not trust God after He so clearly delivered them from Egypt?” But then, all I have to do is look to my own life and recognize the same shortcoming. God has revealed Himself to me in miraculous ways, as a friend you might find yourself telling me, “Edy, how can you deny God’s power and love considering what He has done for you?”

I want to keep control (self-sufficiency) over the outcome of events. I feel sorry for myself (self-pity) when events do not unfold as I expect and people do not act as I would hope. I put off time of solitude with God when I am in prosperity (self-satisfied). I act arrogantly when I feel like I have arrived at a particular level of maturity (self-righteousness). In all of these, I deny God’s desire to provide (unbelief) His blessing and provision in relationships, ministry, financial matters, well, in everything.

How easy do we all fall prey to unbelief and how difficult is it to recognize? A husband or close confidant can remind us when we stumble in unbelief. But, they cannot cause us to act. With loving kindness and guidance we can choose to exercise other areas of our faith in an effort to “cross train” and not place limits on God. We can choose to experience Him in new and vital life giving ways. But for this to occur, a fresh effort to exhaust the sins of the self must occur:

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

When we place our focus on what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross in our stead, our agreement to reach out and “exercise” faith in fresh, adventurous, “cross training” ways leads us to the Great Shepherd (Psalm 23).

In our reliance on God we (I) should come to experience Him as:

My help (Psalm 40:17)
My hiding place (Psalm 32:7)
My hope (Psalm 71:5)
My savior (2 Samuel 22:3)
My deliverer (2 Samuel 22:2)
My strength (Psalm 28:7)
My fortress (Psalm 91:2)
My intercessor (Job 16:20)
My lamp (2 Samuel )
My portion (Psalm 73:26)
My support (Psalm )
My refuge (Psalm 91:2)
My rock (Psalm 18:2)
My witness, advocate (Job )
My salvation (Psalm 27:1)
My shield (Psalm 28:7)
My song (Psalm 118:14)

As we come to an invigorated and revived familiarity we are to sing God a new song:

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Psalm 96:1

Other Posts in the Series: Washing With Sweat  A six week blog series answering the question "What does it mean for a husband to prepare his bride for Christ?" It's this woman’s journey with Ephesians 5:26. It is encouraging for men and women that are married, were married, want to be married, or would like to be married again.