Ever heard the phrase “exercise til you drop”? How about “no pain, no gain”? We are pretty well acquainted with the idea that strength can only come with hard work. And any of us who have tried to go that route know that the strength you build up from exercising only lasts as long as you keep up the regimen.
Not oft considered is the same strength matrix in our spiritual life.
Did you know we have a salvation muscle? There is a certain one-time spiritual foundation on which we have built the basis of our salvation, but it doesn’t have to stop there! In fact, Paul encourages us to “continue to work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling,” in Phil 2:12. He doesn’t mean that our “working out” is what brings us salvation, any more than working out will give us a muscle we didn’t have before. When we exercise, we are building on what’s already there, making it stronger.
Remember that maxim: no pain no gain? It seems that sentiment applies to our salvation as well. James writes, “Consider it pure joy my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness,” James 1:2-4. This has got to be the kind of work that Paul was talking about. It is faith alone which saves us, but it is the experience of that faith in our daily lives which makes it sink in deep.
It’s not as though a lack of exercise will cause a person to lose all muscular ability; the use of our muscles in our daily lives is enough to keep them in working order. The same is true of our salvation muscle. We could choose to simply use our salvation, or we could work out our salvation and build it up strong. There are many ways to regiment our lives to be better prepared for “trials of various kinds” just like the muscle maintenance routine required to “keep in shape.”
It should be no surprise to us when hard times come and our salvation seems too weak to hold up under it. We wouldn’t expect to be able to suddenly lift a couch if we’ve never lifted a dumbbell. If you have ever done a workout, you know there is a moment when your muscles seem too weak to carry on; but if you push through, it makes your muscles stronger. Maybe it is thus with our faith. Perhaps in those moments when we can’t see God yet trust that He is present, it hurts in the moment but makes us stronger in the end.
It sure seems that way in my own life. If you are able, take a minute to share about your own journey in the comments. Maybe we can encourage each other.