James’ school of body-building
The exercise plan that makes a difference
They say that opposites attract–and maybe that’s so. Perhaps in the down-to-earth practicality of the book of James I find the true complement to my own inquisitive, fanciful and sometimes-rebellious spirit. I only know that whenever I get bogged down in my ministry, mired in whys and what ifs and you should’a’s, I like to open the book of James and find myself once again confronted with his challenge to healthy, congruent Christianity.
James has a very practical approach to spiritual health–he believed that the followers of Christ should consciously develop their spiritual muscles, rather than take them for granted. Consider just a few of the many spiritual muscle-building exercises he suggests:
Spiritual exercises–to build a healthy relationship with God:
Count it purest joy when you face hardship and testing–the Lord uses opposition (resistance) to build up our spiritual endurance.
Be single-minded in your quest for wisdom (i.e. the ability to recognize God’s will and live in accordance with his instructions).
Avoid being a “Charlie Brown” Christian. Make certain that you are not being “two-faced” when you talk to God. Think about what you are saying! Ask him up front for what you need in order to accomplish the tasks he has assigned you…and count on receiving it!
Recognize where temptation comes from – don’t blame God or even the devil for your problems. Satan may bait the hook, but it is our own appetites that make the bait appealing.
Recognize also the source of every good thing you have ever received–God is constant and steadfast in his giving. He doesn’t “play games” with your mind by being devious or by pretending to offer what he is not willing to give.
Keep your priorities straight. Let God be the corrective lens through which you look at the world around you.
Spiritual exercises–to build healthy interpersonal relationships:
When someone is talking to you, listen! Concentrate your heart and mind on what is said, and what is left unsaid. Don’t jump to conclusions, or offer careless advice. Don’t take things personally, or get carried away by anger: Your quick temper is not going to accomplish God’s objectives.
Walk what you talk. Like it or not, your daily life is going to demonstrate what you really believe. Lincoln said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all the time.” We need to add to that “and YOU CAN’T FOOL GOD — NO WAY! NO TIME!”
Don’t play favorites. Life may not always be fair but God’s people should try to be.
Don’t confuse wisdom with cleverness. Sarcasm, cynicism and witty barbs may demonstrate a quick mind . . . but they sure don’t demonstrate the mind of Christ.
Don’t criticize; avoid being judgmental in your dealings with others.
Spiritual exercises–to build a healthy Christian ministry:
Take your responsibilities as a Christian leader or teacher seriously–God does.
Avoid getting sidetracked by the desire for “things.” Don’t confuse God with Santa Claus – Jesus told his disciples what they could expect to receive from their ministry (John 15:18-16:3) and the list didn’t include the comforts that you and I come to expect as our due.
Take God into account in your planning. Avoid the temptation to “build a reputation” as a successful officer. Build up the kingdom, not yourself.
If you know what ought to be done, do it. To avoid doing what you know is right is sin!
Practice patience. It takes time and hard work to bring a crop to maturity, ready for the harvest.
Let your “yes” mean yes, your “no” mean no. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
The physical, mental and spiritual health of your flock is your concern. You have been called to be an intercessor, a channel of blessing and healing.
Your prayers make a difference. It doesn’t take a “Silver-tongued super-saint” to pray effectively –a simple, earnest, heartfelt petition is all that’s needed –after all, it’s God who provides the answer, and he’s never been impressed by fancy speeches.
The results of spiritual bodybuilding exercises–building the Body of Christ
All the “might have beens” and “might have dones” fade to nothing compared to the thrill of knowing that Christ has been able to use you to touch someone’s life for his sake, bringing him or her into a right relationship with God. James wrote: Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover a multitude of sins (James 5:20).
Like any good exercise, James’ recommendations demand focus, dedication and hard work–but, WOW!
Wouldn’t the results be worth the extra effort?