Thursday, May 2, 2013

Strength Training for the Christian

As the wife of a seminary student, I am often listening to mini-lectures on the canonization of Scripture, inerrancy, and textual criticism (etc., etc.) In the past I have listened with passivity because I am not well-acquainted with these subjects; after all, I am just a seminary wife. But recently, I have become convicted (most likely through the prayers and encouragement of my dear seminarian-husband) that learning, specifically through reading, is vital to the Christian. Let me give you a parallel to help put this into perspective. 

I write often on this blog about exercise, specifically running. I love it! I devote valuable time to it because I both enjoy it and consider it beneficial. But one aspect of running that I don't so much enjoy is strength training. Strength training, for me, isn't fun. But it yields a great benefit! Fact: it makes you stronger (hence the name). I run faster and can go father when I have devoted time to going to the gym and lifting weights to build the muscles I use when I run. Strength training is also part of injury-prevention. When a runner or athlete has strong muscles, they are less likely to be hurt in their sport. Well, reading is like that for the Christian. For those of us who aren't avid readers, picking up an extra book and spending time actually reading it, can be a difficult task. I just finished a book called "Taking Hold of God" edited by Joel Beeke and Brian G. Najapfour, on Puritan and Reformed perspectives on prayer. I admit that when Chance told me about the book he had just checked out for me from the library, I was a little less than excited. It was not exactly the book I had had in mind to read on the subject of prayer. Boy was I wrong! It was a fantastic read that has challenged and encouraged me in the discipline, study, and practice of prayer. Had I not undertaken to trust my husband's judgment and read this book, I would not now be benefiting from what I have learned. 

To be sure, learning is a process that continues through our entire lifetime. God chose, in his wisdom, to inspire a book to be read so that the man (or woman) of God would be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:17). We would do well to press on in our learning through the discipline of reading and reap the rewards that await us. So just as athletes need strong muscles to perform to the best of their abilities, so we as Christians need strong spiritual muscles that are built as we exercise our minds through reading. 

Reading is also the Christian's defense against injury, because with knowledge there is power. Reading and learning from what we read, prevents us from incurring any injuries to our patterns of thinking. Paul told Timothy, "Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather, train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." I conclude from this passage that training one's mind to protect against error (or "injury") is even more important than training one's body. Certainly, our experiences shape the way we think about issues in life; from them we gain wisdom and the benefit of having been through certain circumstances ourselves. But how much more equipped could we be as Christians to face the world, if we took the time and energy to actually know the ins and outs of our faith. 

To conclude, I believe one of the greatest hindrances to devoting time to reading is busyness. "I'm too busy" is a phrase that I both use and hear too often. While I understand that every individual has a different schedule to keep to, we are all responsible utilize our time wisely. Perhaps we could all re-evaluate our levels of busyness to see if there really isn't time to devote to reading, for the glory of God. I am sure that we could all find time to read that book that we've meant to finish for months, if we checked Facebook less often, and took fewer Instragram photos. If you truly are desiring to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, take the time to read a book; I promise, you won't regret it. 

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