06 Oct Stay Strong
There were some incredibly strong men and women in Judges. One of my favourite characters is Samson. He is the biblical version of the Incredible Hulk! Samson tore a lion apart and later removed the honey from a bees nest in the carcass. He struck down thirty men at his own wedding & then caught three hundred foxes and tied them together in pairs with lit torches attached resulting in the loss of Philistine grain fields and vineyards. He also killed one thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. What a guy! What strength!
Delilah, who was his undoing, asked Samson what the secret was of his incredible strength:
“Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.”” (Judges 16:6)
She kept asking & asking until he finally revealed to her that his strength came from His Nazirite vows (Judges 16:17).
Gideon was also an amazing man who led Israel against the raiding bands of Midianites. Having defeated their armies he eventually captured the Midianite Kings, who after his son refused to kill them said to Gideon:
“Rise yourself, and kill us; for as a man is, so is his strength.” So Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna” (Judges 8:21 NKJV)
‘For as a man is, so is his strength!’
For many of us this may be a new season, with new challenges – at university, college, work, church or at home and…..Christmas is also on the horizon!! In fact this could possibly the busiest season of the year. I want to encourage you to stay strong in a busy or challenging season. You might be a busy person juggling home, family, career, children, church responsibilities or a single parent trying to bring up your children and in the midst of all the other challenges trying to make ends meet. I guess you may be asking yourself questions such as these:
- How am I going to achieve all that God has put on my heart to do?
- How am I going to spin all those plates?
- How can I possibly keep up all my commitments and stay sane and fresh?
Here are six biblical and very practical tips…
1. HEALTH & FITNESS
I reckon Samson was a pretty fit all action hero who also had supernatural strength from God. It’s true to say that in many countries we have become couch potatoes. My parents didn’t own a car until I was in my teens and I remember the days before remote controllers and fast food – we were way healthier back then! Obesity is rising. Dieting is so hard! It’s no surprise that ‘diet’ is ‘DIE’ with a ‘T’. It’s so hard to stay at a healthy weight! John (the evangelist) writes to his friend Gaius saying:
“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” (3 John 1:2 NLT)
We can stay strong during a busy season by simply looking after our bodies as well as we are able.
It’s amazing the difference it makes when we do a bit of regular exercise each week. I try, whenever I can, to walk rather than drive or use the stairs rather than a lift or escalator. If you can’t afford a fitness club then why not go for a walk for 30-45 minutes two or three times a week. I recently started doing this almost every day and it’s not only made a great difference to my health it’s also a great opportunity to think and talk to God.
I have a serious (!) sweet tooth problem so I try really hard to avoid biscuits, chocolates and cakes. For many of us if we made it a rule not to eat between meals or grab that cookie at Starbucks we would soon notice the difference. I’ve also learned the value of regularly drinking water during the day which quenches my thirst, keeps me hydrated and makes my stomach believe it is full!
Many of the specialists say we need eight hours sleep and that the hours before midnight are most beneficial. So for me going to bed at a sensible time allows me to stay strong. It also enable me to rise early, spend time with God and get on with the day.
Why not set yourself a challenge….to cut back, lose half a stone, exercise 2-3 times a week and get to bed by 10.30pm. Try it for a month and you will notice the difference!
Stay strong in the new season!
2. JOY & LAUGHTER
“A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:13)
“A cheerful disposition (happy heart) is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.” (Proverbs 17:22 MSG)
Why do we take life so seriously?
Most of us are aware of the stats that suggest that a child laughs 300-500 times per day and that the average adult laughs 15 times per day! We simply must create opportunities for joy each day!
Laughter is so beneficial to our bodies:
- Stimulates organs inc. heart, lungs, muscles, brain
- Relieves stress
- Soothes tension
- Stimulates circulation
- Improves and strengthens immune system
- Relives pain
(Mayo Clinic research)
There is something about laughter – it just makes you feel better and re-enthuses you for life. Re-energises. Go on – find something to laugh about right now and see how much better you feel!
Nehemiah said to the people:
“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Joy produces and maintains our strength which explains why it’s one of the enemies primary targets. He will attempt to cause us to lose our joy through disappointment, discouragement and through other people. Avoid joyless, miserable, toxic people – they are the devils secret agents to rob you of joy and ultimately your strength. When you lose your joy, the enemy wins and you are deprived of your strength!
Stay strong in the new season by being joyful and laughing every day as much as you can!
It is so important that we do things that we really enjoy! I recently conducted a funeral of an older lady in our church and discovered that she enjoyed Zombie films! I would never have thought it – but she loved them! I love sport, action hero movies, visiting new places, the countryside & sea, walks with my dog & also solitude whilst my wife Julia enjoys shopping, baking, Sound Of Music, grand children…and being with me (ahhhhh!) We are all different. Thank God – we all have different passions and hearts.
What do you really enjoy doing? When did you last do it?!
What does your spouse enjoy doing? Encourage them to do it!
If we are to stay strong during a busy and challenging season then one of the tricks is to do the things we really enjoy occasionally because it recreates us. This means we must:
- Plan recreation or it won’t happen.
- Plan short breaks or treats at the end of busy periods
- Pace ourselves by using recreation times
Recreation refreshes and restores tired people – it helps us stay strong!
One of the most important things for believers is this – being with other believers! There is strength in being together with other believers.
“Therefore, encourage each other and strengthen one another as you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 GW)
We simply cannot live in isolation as Christians – we were created for fellowship with one another. Most churches these days have small groups that meet during the week. These are great places for worship, fellowship, prayer, discipleship, prayer and support. They are places where we can arrive feeling discouraged and flat but leave feeling uplifted and strengthened – simply by being with other believers who are on the same journey of faith who face the same struggles and challenges.
“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” (Romans 15:1)
You can be strong at home but why would you want to be? Gods call is for us to strengthen and build one another up. We weren’t created to be solitary Christians but rather a body made of many other parts which actually needs every part active and present to function properly. Strength arises as we mutually give and receive and as we share our unique personality, heart, gifts, experiences and faith to build one another up.
Stay strong during this season by making time for fellowship with other believers.
5. ONLY CARRY WHAT GOD CALLS YOU TO CARRY
I hate carrying things unnecessarily! When I’m shopping with Julia, I will either leave my purchase until the end so I don’t have to carry it – or take it to the car! What are you carrying right now that you don’t need to? We can waste a lot of time and energy thinking, worrying & getting anxious trying to find a solution to things that God never asked us to get involved with!
““Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”” (Matthew 11:28-30)
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t carry things at times and have responsibilities etc. Jesus wasn’t suggesting that!
I have to keep reminding myself that God might have given me the yoke of responsibility for my family and my church but He did not intend it to become overwhelmingly burdensome to the point where I’m totally stressed out and constantly thinking about it to the detriment of myself and others.
So what yokes have you accepted that God never told you to carry?
- A family member or someone else’s problem
- A battle God NEVER told you to fight!
- Situation at work
- A responsibility that’s become a massive burden that’s sapping you of all your energy and enthusiasm for life.
How do you stay strong in this season? Regularly audit your life and make sure that you are not carrying things that God hasn’t asked you to carry and that whatever you do have responsibility for hasn’t become an overbearing burden that was never Gods intention. When I’ve become overwhelmed and burdened I find it useful to say to God:
‘Lord I give it/them/this to you – you didn’t create me to carry this. I’m sorry for allowing it to become something you never intended it to be. I release it back to you. This/they are your responsibility not mine. Please carry it from now on….’
Stay strong during this busy season by only carrying what God has called you to carry.
6. SPEND TIME WITH GOD
This is the critical and single most effective way of staying strong. We simply must spend time with the Lord who is our strength!
“I love you, Lord, my strength.” (Psalm 18:1)
One of the traps that the enemy lays is to make us so busy that we don’t have time to be with God or he makes us believe we can do everything in our own strength with an occasional Sunday ‘top up! Our own power and strength will never be enough in a busy season.
No matter how strong you feel you are right now (hey I can do this!) – you’re own strength is actually limited and will eventually run out. The key in busy seasons is to do everything in His strength and power! I try and plug in to the power source every day! He is our strength. He is our source. He is the one who is strong even when we feel weak.
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)
The secret to staying strong in a busy season is time with the source of all strength!
For some that will be early in the morning, others evenings, or in the car or on public transport, but let me promise you this – a few moments with God can change everything. We must rely on God totally for our strength and even more so in busy seasons. I love this amplified translation of Paul’s words:
“I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfil His purpose – I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]” (Philippians 4:13 AMP)
If this is a busy season of your life then I pray that you will stay strong in the Lord and in His mighty power!
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