How to Make Your Faith Steady & Strong
We all know that when it comes to fitness, it takes work to get stronger.
In order to strengthen a muscle, it must experience resistance. In order to increase flexibility, the muscles must experience stretching and tension. And, in order to improve your endurance, you’ve got to exert yourself. There is no magic bullet to shaping up your body….you have got to work and dedicate time to all three areas of fitness to be physically fit.
It turns out, tending to our spiritual fitness doesn’t look too differently.
Romans 5:3-4 says, “We celebrate in seasons of suffering because we know that when we suffer, we develop endurance which shapes and defines our characters. When our characters are refined, we learn what it means to hope and anticipate God’s goodness. And hope will never fail to satisfy our deepest need because the Holy Spirit that was given to us has flooded our hearts with God’s love.”
Isn’t the last part of that group of verses beautiful? The first part, on the other hand, doesn't sound as appetizing.
I don’t know about you, but words like endure, suffering, refined, and persevere sound hard! In fitness, we know that the hard stuff is what produces growth; if we avoid exerting ourselves, our bodies will become sick and weak.
What weights, hiking trails and Pilates reformers are to the body, perseverance, refinement and suffering are to the spirit.
The hard stuff is good for us.
Let’s examine this group of verses together. Paul says that we are to celebrate during seasons of suffering. The word “suffer” comes from the Latin word “pati”. It means to bear under. Suffering is an act of surrender, to bear under that which is not in our control- but beyond our control. God allows us control over just one area of our lives and that is that we get to CHOOSE OUR THOUGHTS about what happens to us and HOW WE WILL RESPOND.
Suffering quietly begs us to surrender so we can win a greater wisdom and deeper strength and a closer intimacy with God. The key life task is not to avoid suffering. If we do, we may be avoiding the gift of more God that we receive in the midst of suffering.
Where there is suffering, there is God, and where there is God, there is redemption.
Paul goes on to say that we are to endure during our trials and tribulations. In Greek, the word he used for “endure” is translated into “patience” or “a patient enduring.” He’s basically saying that we need to be happy, rejoice and glorify God when we suffer because our trials help us learn to be patient. It’s a patience that waits on God- still, calm and hanging on for dear life!
Patience helps us grow; it helps us become spiritually stronger. Enduring trials gives us a proven character- or as the Message version states, “a virtue of tempered steel.”
Forget rock-hard abs, I want a character that has been tested, pressed, burned and boiled out until it emerges stronger than steel.
And, that’s not all God promises us! This rock-hard character that God establishes, produces BIG-TIME spiritual gems in our lives that will sustain us forever. These virtues are a tried, tested and exercised trust in an Almighty God; a hope that never fails to satisfy our deepest need, and a bright, vibrant and active faith that believes that God’s goodness is coming.
All of this is active- it’s stuff we need to do on our part.
We need to rejoice, give thanks, and celebrate even when it hurts.
We need to exercise our patience when we suffer. We are to bear under the weight of life’s trials WITH God, and when we do, our hope and faith becomes strong and steady.
Trials and suffering are exercises for our hope and faith, and the stuff that makes our hope and faith strong produces results that last.
The circuit classes and yoga workshops have a shelf life in the body (I think we all have noticed the side effects of a season of inactivity).
1 Timothy 4:8 speaks to this: “Exercise daily in God- no spiritual flabbiness please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful- but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this- take it to heart- we’re banking on the living God.” MSG
So let me ask you this:
- Are you inviting God into your suffering?
- Are you letting the trials, challenges and hurts of life make you spiritually stronger- or are you allowing them to harden your heart?
It turns out that rejoicing in the Lord happens while we still struggle in the now.
Struggling and rejoicing are not two chronological steps, one following the other, but two concurrent movements, one fluid with the other. As cold can move you closer towards the fire, struggling can move you closer toward God- who warms you with joy.
Struggle can deepen joy. Even though there are no struggle-free days; even though I fail, even though everything fails, even now I rejoice in the Lord. Even now I will be joyful in the God of my salvation.