Growing Pains – A Devotion

Growing Pains

Hebrews 10:35-36 (NLT)

So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

 

Lord have mercy my legs hurt. Saturday my husband and I went to the gym for our first workout in a week. He had been out of town and I was with our girls. No excuses. I just took a week off. There are new stair climbers in place that look like giant mini escalators. We decided that this might be a useful edition to our cardio routine. Setting the machine, we got to stepping. One might think this routine much too simple as all you do is climb stairs. We tried about ten minutes neither of us making it quite to the end. Headed home, I had concluded that it wasn’t too bad and surely I would need to increase the intensity next time for better results. The devil is a liar. As Saturday turned to Sunday, the muscles in my legs began to rebel against the previous days assault. Following the church service, I could barely unbend my legs without significant pain that continued to worsen throughout the day. I have always wondered why muscle soreness doesn’t happen right away but tends to creep up the next day or so after a particularly intense workout. According to Livestrong.com, building muscle requires first overloading them to force our body to become stronger. The process causes muscle tissue to be damaged and broken down as we gain new strength. Therefore the pain is from the damage growth causes. Delayed onset muscle pain is a medical term used to describe such discomfort. An injury would have caused immediate pain, but this slow building pain is in direct correlation to the strengthening of our body. It is a good thing if there ever is such a thing as good pain.

So last night, our family was invited to a dinner at church for all those who volunteer and work in the ministries. My husband and I have not been able to serve for some time due to the ongoing battle our son has fought against cancer. Nevertheless, we were invited to attend. As I hobbled into the crowd, not even joking my legs are so sore, I felt a tug in my heart that I had not experienced in a while. The urge and need to serve the Lord in His House again. I love to serve. I always have. But the constant in and out of town along with uncertainty of recent days made it very difficult to commit to such a task. As I began to think about serving, I felt anxiety creeping in. The twinge of pain and a sense of loss that comes when I think about how things used to be before reality came knocking on our door. I could feel the pain of loss associated with things not turning out the way we expected. The discomfort of change no matter how productive the process. Could this also be a delayed onset of soreness from the stretching my heart has experienced over the past several months? Patient endurance is a necessity in our life as believers. It is uncomfortable. It sometimes causes pain. But we are not called to live an idle life but to prosper in the Lord and to do so there will be some growing pains along the way.

2 Thessalonians 3:5-6 (NLT)
May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ. And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us.

There is no such thing as an “idle” life for a true believer. Idles means inactive, unproductive, doing nothing and avoiding work. We must understand that this is not what we were created to do or called by Christ to accomplish. We are in the process of completion and fulfillment which will require a complete restructuring of our life. It’s funny how busy the gym is in January and February but then peters out the rest of the year. You cannot find a parking place in the beginning but when the reality sets in and pain of the process evident many people choose to just go back to the comfort of their home, couch and kitchen. An idle life lacks the commitment necessary to seal the deal when it comes to having all that God has promised. There will be some discomfort and pain along the way but when compared to the potential we have as believers, it will be totally worth it.

James 1:3-4 (NLT)

For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

 

What is your goal as a believer? Do you want a better life? Do you want the best life? Our idea of a good life may not exactly resemble the God Life that Jesus died for us to have. We set our standard way lower than God does. Faith is a step by step process of claiming all that the Lord has promised us. But it is not without discomfort. Jesus didn’t make the process easy – but made it possible by faith. Faith is tested. It is stretched. Like our muscle tissue during exercise, it must be forced to its limits and broken to be renewed. Endurance is the process by which faith grows. Commitment to endure even when times are tough and pain inevitable allow us to experience the benefits of faith as hope is established and we become confident in God’s Ability and Willingness to care for us, complete us and we need nothing but Jesus.

Colossians 1:11-14 (NLT)

We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

 

During particularly challenging workouts, my body screams to stop and give up on the last few reps, but I will myself to press through the pain even when I know I will be sore in the coming days. Why? I want to see the results. My goal is for my body to be strong and healthy. I have a lot more life to live and would like my body to keep up. I know that if I keep on pressing and pushing that one day I will have what I am after. Why not apply the same thing to our spiritual life? We work for what we want every single day. We set goals with dreams of fulfillment. God made us that way. If only we would apply the same tenacity and stubbornness to our faith, we would finally begin to see the Promises of God make their way into our life. The potential is there hidden under all the compromises and substitutions that we have surrounded ourselves with. We must cut the fat and release the weights that hold us back to endure and receive the Prize of Faith that awaits all who choose to patiently endure.

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NLT)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

 

The process of endurance and patience that our family has been in comes at the price of a great deal of waiting. I hate to wait. I want to be the runner who gets to see progress in every step. Today, I am not walking so well. I will need to stretch my legs frequently at work or be locked up when I do try to move. Jesus Christ is our Champion who initiated the productivity of faith. He has perfected our faith so that those who have it will be blessed. But the process of acquiring faith still remains a personal choice much like diet and exercise produce a healthy lifestyle. It is still up to you whether or not to be healthy. People make excuses every day as to why they do not exercise, eat right and yes even why they do not have time to serve the Lord. (Didn’t see that coming, huh?)This is not about this life but learning to patiently endure the process and even pain of faith acquisition. We should never be willing to work harder for any other life goal that we have. We must engrain this as the highest priority and focused pursuit of our life even when it requires more than we want to give or causes discomfort and pain in our heart. There is joy awaiting those who decide that there is no more beneficial quality than faith and make it their mission to have it.

James 5:7-8 (NLT)

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.

 

Waiting becomes essential when we believe it produces something worth having. Farmers wait for the harvest. It is valuable. There is nothing in this world more valuable than faith in God. I used to think that I could work for man and work for God and still have my way. Looking for shortcuts to God’s Heart, I tried the whole righteousness gig in my own strength. But when the day of testing came, I was helpless. I could not even keep my own heart from breaking into a million pieces let alone save our son’s life. All that remained was my faith, it was small. Oh so small, but it was the only thing left to hold on to so I did. It has been a long road. Today I still feel the soreness in the scars of my hearts repair. As I am stretched to step into the future, it is with a bit of fear of what is to come. I am only human. But at least this time, I have a little more faith and hope than before to grasp tightly. Now I want more… As I begin to step out of my comfort zone on these aching legs, I will be patient. I refuse to give up on this wait for I have been here so long. I need to test this new faith that I have been given and stretch those aching “muscles” again. I want to make to the end of this life complete and lacking no good thing. I must endure the growing pains along the way to get there knowing by faith and confident hope that He promised is most definitely faithful!

2 Peter 1:5-7 (NLT)

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

 

I am already dreading our nightly trip to the gym this evening. My legs barely bend at this point. I am not sure that I am ready to push through the pain. My heart kind of feels the same way. I am trying wrap my head around this new life after cancer and living on high alert. It has been six months and our son is still cancer free. We will check again in three months. This will mark the longest period of “remission” yet. The Lord is pressing me to walk by faith and begin to rebuild my new life. I am hesitant. Only those who have ridden such a roller coaster will truly understand the difficulty of this process. I must make every effort to respond to all God’s Promises for my life rather than having this test keep me from reaching across the pain and uncertainty to take hold of the future by faith. The discomfort has been worth it as I realize that I am closer to the Lord than ever before. These growing pains are part of life – always. Whether they will hinder me or not is up to me and remains to be seen. Tonight when I go to work out, I will have to push through the pain of my insulted leg muscles. I will do it because I want to be healthy and strong. Why would I invest any less effort in securing all of God’s Promises for my life both now and forever? Press on. Push through. Do whatever you have to do to endure today. It will be worth it. It will make you stronger. You will make it to the end. Those who do always win!

Romans 5:3-4 (NLT)

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

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