I classify myself as a 'fitness loner' since most of my fitness routines are done by myself. I like to think I"m disciplined enough to keep a fitness routine and although I am consistent, the same routine is done over and over. This is great to stay healthy and active, but is a poor plan when additional results are desired.
Recently the opportunity to attend a fitness class came. During class we were using hand weights and our instructor would periodically ask "Does anyone need to go heavier?" She would often encourage the class if the weight being used felt comfortable, it may be time to go a bit heavier. This is a benefit of group exercise, to be challenged to reach goals and to do a little more than what is comfortable. The instructor knew that if we were comfortable with our weights, we would not achieve the greatest results. It takes tension and resistance along with more effort for continued progress
In fitness, the more tension and stretching of the muscle, the more it builds. Strength training is also called resistance training because it involves strengthening and toning your muscles by contracting them against a resisting force. When you strength train with weights, you're using your muscles to work against the extra pounds (this concept is called resistance). This strengthens and increases the amount of muscle mass in your body by making your muscles work harder than they're used to.
To be spiritually fit, it is not the easy routines of life that bring growth. It again calls on tension and resistance. To grow stronger in the Lord, choices must be made with what is most beneficial to take in and to give out. The goal for Christians is to be more Christ-like in our words, actions, thoughts and deeds. It is His love that equips us to make the needed changes such as daily drinking in His life giving Word. What we put in our minds and hearts will come out in actions. Setting aside a time to read the Bible sounds easy, until something interferes (like sleep, activities,work etc.). Then the challenge begins! Prayer is a discipline that when pursued gives great strength to us, is a blessing to others as we pray for them and in hard times brings deliverance and help from the God with whom nothing is impossible. Being Christ-like in our actions works well until the resistance of self desires are brought into the situation. How willing are we to defer to another whether in attitudes, words or actions? But as we seek to be like Christ, and as we put our focus on allowing His love to flow through us, we gain spiritual strength and bear spiritual fruit, (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness etc.) No one enjoys the pain of trials, but to the Christian, God is always at work for our good and we can rest assured He is still in control as we draw nearer to Him and those times can bring great spiritual growth.
Just as that group fitness class encourages the participants to be focused, to join side by side to work to achieve goals the church is the place for us to be with and be encouraged by other believers. When our instructor (pastor) speaks words that require us to 'go heavier' or dig deep into our hearts to grow in areas, we are strengthened.
So, whether physical or spiritual, don't be afraid of heavier weight, effort or diligence. That's how we get stronger!