As a man, I appreciate a good tool box – even though I don’t have a Tim-the-toolman-Taylor bone in my body. Maybe that’s a good thing – I don‟t know. Anyway, I love having the exact tool to fit a specific problem right when I need it. But I equally hate being in a situation when I need a specific tool and don’t have it. It’s especially frustrating – even frightening – when it’s my health that needs fixing.
As I’ve mentioned a few times in this devotional series, I have some ongoing pains and physical limitations due to some significant surgeries over the last few years. I can no longer do the heavy rucksack marches or pound the ground on long runs for my aerobic fitness or do any heavy squats to build the strength in my legs. For a while, I was getting really angry and a little depressed. The doctors were telling me, “You can’t ______”, but the Army was telling me, “You must still _______.” How was I supposed to stay in shape with my new limitations? That was the first time I took a serious look at working out with “girly-man‟ equipment like elliptical trainers, stair masters, stationary bikes, treadmills, and – heaven forbid – weight-lifting machines! I had always preached, “Give me some manly free weights and get out of my way!” Machines were for middle-aged women trying to burn 10 years of baby fat, office geeks, and couch potatoes hoping they could turn the clock back after wasting years behind video games. (Forgive me – I am speaking like Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:17, as the fool that I was) Now I needed some extra help. The first few times were embarrassing.
While most of the studs were doing heavy overhead presses, I was pressing ¼ of the same weight on a machine with a backboard to stabilize me. While they were sprinting on the road like gazelles, I was moving my feet on the elliptical like I was running, but I wasn’t going anywhere. If it hadn’t been for my MP3 player or the TV monitors on the aerobics machines, I don’t know which would have come first, quitting or going insane! After a few weeks, though, I discovered something strange: with a little research on how to work-out wisely and a stick-with-it attitude, I could get a better workout when I added the machines than when I just lifted free weights and ran! By design, the elliptical can work my legs AND upper body. By design, the treadmill allows me to increase the speed and incline to fine-tune the intensity of my workout throughout my run. No stretch of road can be adjusted for elevation! By design, several stationary bikes freed my hands to do upper-body exercises with dumbbells. Try that on a traditional bike (or maybe not). By design, weight machines allow me to target specific muscles or muscle groups, but almost of them provide back support that I can’t get with free-weight exercises. I started getting stronger and healthier than I’d ever been before – all because I started using tools that had been designed for my success! Do you think our Lord has any tools that He has designed for our success? Oh yeah!
He’s given some tools for our proactive spiritual health and others for our response to spiritual warfare. Let’s consider a few of each briefly and one at a time. At this point, I want to be especially careful to communicate the utmost respect for the sacred things God has given His people when I refer to them as “tools”. But in a real sense that it what they are.
In a sacred sense, corporate worship, the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and baptism, fellowship of believers, and church discipline are tools for our spiritual health (Luke 22:19, Matthew 28:19, Hebrews 10:25, Matthew 18:15-20). Think about it. They do not bring us to spiritual life, nor do they keep us alive, but they are definitely designed to build up the Body of Christ.
Again, I want to be clear. God commands these things and, therefore, omitting any of them from our lives is sinful. But they do not make us His people or kick us out of His kingdom. Even church discipline (which can have the eventual result of refusing a stubbornly unrepentant sinner from communion with God’s people) has the goal of restoration, not excommunication, and – in my understanding of Scripture – does not claim that the person has lost their salvation but that it seems they never were born-again. (1 John 2:19)
Our Lord has also given us tools to protect our spiritual health. I won’t go into any detail, since Paul does a great job of describing the armor of God listed in Ephesians 6 and other Christians have written volumes of commentaries and devotionals on the tools God has provided us.
The question is, will we eagerly take up His tools and use them for the health of the Body of Christ? Or will we take my former attitude believing “those are for wimpy believers.” But, really, isn’t that the truth? Doesn’t Jesus say He came not for the healthy but for the sick, not for the “righteous” but for sinners? (Matthew 9:11ff) So what are you going to do?
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