• john8398

Weight and Strength, or Wait for Strength?

Dr. R. B. McFee

Email: drmcfee2020@gmail.com

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”

Psalm 27:14 KJV

The other day I was reading an article in a climbing magazine on improving skill levels, and this Psalm came to mind, as thoughts blended between my journey in faith, and journey on the walls.

Invariably the authors brought the discussion down to weight, strength, and technique. Some argued that weight loss remains a significant contributor to improved climbing prowess. OK, makes sense. Medically it is a good idea to stay in a healthy weight - BMI range.

Other authors suggested strength training was the critical element as an important part of climbing. No argument there. Whether for climbing or healthy aging, increased muscle mass is a predictor of, and contributor to good health.*

Thinking about improving my climbing strength reminded me I need to continuously strengthen my spiritual skills, too.

How do we build strength? For starters, by lifting more than we did before, and allowing our muscles to be tested, and then grow from the experience. Hmmm, sounds like building our spiritual muscles, too.

Speaking of which, ever notice God puts more on us, not less, as we progress on our spiritual journey?

Interestingly, in the climbing article technique got an honorable mention. I thought about some of the discussions with people just embarking on a spiritual journey; expressing concern that they weren’t doing it right, couldn’t find the perfect words, and similar. Like climbing, our relationship with Jesus is just about doing it regularly, more than doing it perfectly.

It takes a lot of time to get good at something. Yet how many of us boast about ‘waiting’ or ‘patience’ as our strong suit?

The hard part of Psalm 27 is waiting. It is during the waiting periods God may be doing His best work with us! Doubt me? The word “wait” is used almost 90 times in the Bible! There must be a reason!

We have to mature in our earthly endeavors. Those words of patience can ring true for Christians growing in the Spirit, too.

Whether playing a musical instrument, developing a healthy body, becoming the person in Christ we hope to be; all of these require discipline, time, trying, failing, trying again, and faith. We exercise and exercise yet wait until our body reflects it. We eat greener and fresher, and wait until the scale rewards us. We pray and pray, wondering when our relationship with God becomes more observable.

The fact that we think about our relationship with God on a regular basis is a sure sign we are growing in faith. It reveals the very Presence of the Holy Spirit speaking to our consciousness.

Growing strong in the Spirit takes time, and commitment, just as growing biceps, and resilience,

That said, as I kept thinking about the article, my thoughts turned to Good Friday. Jesus must have been very strong, muscles developed over years of being a tradesman like His earthly father Joseph. Then I thought about the wood, the Cross….

17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).

John 19:17

At Easter we often read Gospels in their entirety, instead of merely referencing the “Holy Week,” “Last Supper” and “Resurrection” verses, as is frequently the case during the year. More is the pity, because it is often in the lead in parts of Gospel chapters that we find some of the most important, and overlooked information, insights, and inspiration.

And, it helps to take a moment to understand some of the first century items, and context within which much of the Gospels refer.

Take for example John 19:17.

Recall the Passion of the Christ – moments before Jesus was led outside, He had just been scourged – a barbaric form of torture, or in this case severe torture before excruciating torture – where a prisoner would be whipped with leather that had barbed metal at the tips, such that with each lash of the whip, Jesus’ flesh would be torn. So extreme could the injuries be from scourging, that in some prisoners, bone could be seen. Extreme blood loss, even death could result.

To suggest scourging would weaken someone is an understatement of epic proportions.

To add insult to injury, prisoners about to be crucified were often forced to carry their own cross. Although many paintings and images of Jesus show Him carrying the entire cross, Romans were efficient; it would have been more efficient, and easier on the soldiers to have the vertical piece preinstalled, and just switch off the horizontal piece with each prisoner.

This horizontal cross piece, called the “patibulum” had an estimated weight between 70 and 100+ pounds; not an easy thing to carry if healthy, and certainly another tortuous burden if your back has been flayed open, you’ve lost blood, you are dehydrated, walking on uneven road, recently beaten, and kept unfed. Such was the state Jesus in mortal form found Himself.

Then consider the patibulum was certainly not finely turned; it was rough, heavy wood, the splinters likely poking into Jesus’ raw and open flesh – a constant source of additional pain to fresh wounds with every step He would take.

Of course the real weight Jesus carried was the weight of the world, the sin of all mankind – past, present, and future; the weight of more than seven billion sinners.

24 “He Himself bore our sins” in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by His wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,”[f] but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

1 Peter 2:24 - 25

For us Jesus gave up His birthright privilege to shoulder on His birthright responsibility. It took Him nearly thirty years to prepare for this – to build His spiritual, physical and emotional muscles.

So how are our spiritual, physical, and emotional muscles?

Like Jesus, do we pray to God for sustaining strength, wisdom?

In retrospect from Easter to when Jesus first started His ministry, is it any wonder He often stepped aside to pray? He was building His spiritual strength through constant communication with God. Jesus knew what was coming. Every day was one step closer to His great sacrifice for us. Not only tasked with dying for our sins, He was charged with teaching us how to utilize our newly given reconciliation in God, too. Before His Ascension Jesus had to instruct….

20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made Him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:20 - 21

We need to realize preparing for the tasks God has set for us, in our service to the Lord there will be hurdles, and other challenges. We will have to strengthen ourselves through God for our spirit, and our body – that all important vessel housing our soul, and most importantly is connected to the Holy Spirit.