Friday, 31 March 2017

Where Is The Strength?

I was in a library recently and there was a notice at the reception desk that said: ‘Just In!  Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Body Building Bible.’  Now I don’t know that book.  I don’t know what kind of advice Big Arnie would l give you if you want a body like his.    But someone once told me that if you are interested in that kind of thing it doesn’t matter how hard you work in a gym it’s what you do outside the gym that really counts.  By that he meant you have to be careful what you eat and what you drink and make sure you get all the sleep you need.  It’s not just about pumping iron you have to be disciplined out there in the world and that can be a challenge.  

That’s something we could apply to the whole of our lives.  There are times when we are doing the things we enjoy and we feel that life is really worth living.  There are times when we are with family and friends and we feel that we are loved and appreciated.  But the real test is when we move out of our comfort zone and have to do things we don’t want to do, have to deal with people who rub us up the wrong way, face circumstances that are demanding too much from us.  How do we cope with that?

In a couple of weeks time Christians all over the world will be celebrating Easter and at the heart of that is the belief that on the third day after Jesus was tortured to death He rose again and for a long period of time he appeared to his followers and talked to them and even shared meals with them.   These must have been extraordinary experiences and you can imagine that the followers would want them to go on forever.  But Jesus told them that there would come a time when these appearances and their fellowship together would come to an end.  They would have to break out of the warm bubble that they had been living in.  They would have to go out into the world and tell His story and share His love with people in need.  In effect he was telling them that they had to take on everything that was bad in the world and overcome it.  

I’m always challenged whenever I think about that.  I still love reading books about Jesus.  I love to discuss his teaching with other Christians.  I love to lead worship and to preach.  All these things make me feel strong within myself but it’s not much good if I go into the world and live a careless life.  Being strong in my Christian bubble is not enough.  I have to take the teaching I have gathered and put it into practise.  

Now that is not easy and I know that too often I’ve failed and maybe sometimes even felt that I was losing heart.  But the great thing about the Christian message is the assurance that  you can always start again.  One of the first followers of Jesus was a man called Paul.  In a letter he wrote to a friend he describes a traumatic experience he had to go through that demanded a lot from him.  ‘But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength.‘  Now Jesus had long ago departed the scene but His Spirit was close to Paul in his time of trouble and that gave him the strength that was needed to go on.  

That’s what Easter means to me.  It’s knowing that whatever challenges I face the Spirit of Jesus is close and in His strength I can always go forward in hope.  If you find yourself caught up in His great movement to transform the world that will be your experience too.