A few months ago I asked my doctor about some pain I was experiencing in my legs during and after exercise. She in turn asked me what kind of stretching I was doing before and after my workouts. Simple answer, none. The good doctor had me stand and began showing me a series of stretches to do along with my workouts. They were a little (a lot) uncomfortable but I have to admit they eliminated all of the pain I had been experiencing previously. A little discomfort now to prevent a lot of pain later sounds like a pretty good plan. Even the stretching has become more comfortable lately.
God has been stretching me lately too and it has not always been comfortable but I know that He is looking out for me. He is using these stretches to prepare me for the greater things He has planned for me. I believe that we must also be stretched intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. It might be uncomfortable at times but it could very well prevent us from being injured later on. Are you being stretched?
We are stretched intellectually when we are learning. Read books, spend time with mentors, attend seminars, enroll in classes, take time to reflect on things around you. Remain a student of God, His word, and His ways. One of the most challenging passages of Scripture to me has always been 2 Timothy 2:15. After 26 years of preaching I still feel like the challenge of "rightly dividing the Word" is enormous. We must continue to study and stretch intellectually so that we may not be ashamed.
Emotional stretching seems to be the most uncomfortable, at least to me. It seems to me that being stretched emotionally is the easiest stretch to avoid. I don't have to forgive people if I can keep them far enough away that
they can't hurt me. I don't have to love people if I keep them at a
distance and don't really get close. The less time I spend with people
the less opportunity they have to disappoint me. I commented to Kathy a while back that I sometimes wish I didn't care. If I didn't care then things just wouldn't hurt so bad. If I didn't care though, how effective could I be as a pastor. So I care, and it is painful sometimes, really painful. I get stretched. We are stretched when we forgive, when we love unconditionally, and when we open our hearts up to people.
We need to be stretched spiritually too! Our faith must be stretched. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith we cannot please God. I think we can get to a place in our Christian walk where there is very little faith required. We just serve God so long that we come to know that he will come through every time rather than have faith that he will come through. We need to be stretched! I like what William Carey said, "Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God". When is the last time we attempted something great for God? Something that seemed impossible.
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 2:1-4
"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." 1 Corinthians 10:13
I picked up a pack of rubber bands this week and I'm wearing one on my wrist to remind me to stretch. There are a few thoughts about being stretched that the rubber band reminds me of.
- The rubber band is extremely useful, but only when it is stretched. It is just a piece of rubber until it is stretched and wrapped around something. I am most useful when I am stretched. We have too many believers who refuse to be stretched.
- The rubber band has it's limit. It can only be stretched so far before it breaks. I have limits too. I can only be stretched so far. God knows exactly how far I can be stretched and He is faithful to never stretch me more than I can handle.
- When one rubber band cannot be stretched far enough, I can tie another to it and stretch twice the distance. What would the church be if believers would be committed to one another and allow God to stretch them further because of these commitments?
- If a rubber band is broken it can be tied together again and still be useful. I think God can take those who are broken, tie them together again and make them useful.
It's sad that when we are stretched to our limits our first instinct is to cut back and unfortunately we allow ourselves to be stretched by anything and everything other than God. We are stretched by debt, by commitments to community events, by friendships, by overtime and side jobs. When we reach our limit we cut back on our church attendance, our service within the church, our time for study and prayer. We keep allowing this world to stretch us and refuse to allow God to stretch us even though He is the one that has promised to never stretch us beyond our abilities.
Have a great weekend! It's Father's Day this Sunday. I'm jazzed about our BBQ and Pie Auction in Fairfield this Sunday afternoon. Our goal is to raise enough money to sponsor 20 kids to summer camp. Camp is $125 per child this year in case you wanted to help out. :)