I was working out at the gym one day and really struggling with the weight I was lifting.
As I lifted, a fellow gym-goer commented to me that I needed to be mindful of my breathing. I should exhale when I was pushing, and inhale as I lowered the weight.
It can be easy to get so focused on the lifting that you actually hold your breath. The Lord has called us as the Church to bear a heavy burden.
We are to make disciples of all nations, which is no small task.
In order to accomplish it, there are seemingly innumerable smaller tasks that we need to complete.
It is very easy to become overwhelmed by Sunday service planning, outreach events, small groups, counseling ministries, discipleship programs, missions initiatives, and other general business of church life that we forget from where the power to accomplish our mission emanates.
Like someone lifting a heavyweight
(or even someone sitting on the couch binge watching Netflix) we need oxygen.
In spiritual terms, we need God’s grace.
It is God’s empowering grace which gives us strength, wisdom and resolve, and if grace is likened to oxygen, breathing is likened to prayer and praise. I have known many Christian who finds themselves losing motivation.
They have often worked very hard for the kingdom of God, so much so that they forgot to breathe.
It can seem almost counter-intuitive to take time out of a busy schedule for activities such as worship and prayer.
They force us to slow down when everything in us is telling us to speed up.
We need to stop when we are in a hurry, and that’s not easy to do. In 1 Samuel 30, David finds himself in an impossible situation.
Verse 6 speaks of a moment of desperation where his own loyal soldiers spoke of stoning him because everything they had; their families and their possessions were taken by raiders.
It says that “David strengthened himself in the Lord”.
It was from this place of strength that David and his men pursue and overcome their enemies and reclaim all that was taken from them and more; in fact, it was a very short time later that David is placed on the throne of Judah as king.
It is a long way from almost being stoned by your group of followers to ruling a nation, but David did it in the strength he received from the Lord. How does one take strength in the Lord?
For the purposes of this article, we’re talking about prayer and praise.
Those two things are key.
I am reminded of the words of the old hymn by Joseph Scriven, What A Friend we have in Jesus. “What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer! Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer.” Payer reminds us that the burden we bear is not our own and that we bear only a small part of it. When we engage in a prayer of faith, we believe that God will do what we cannot, and we find rest knowing that while the task at hand is bigger than we are, it is not bigger than He who made everything.
It is from the place of praise that we rediscover who God is and what he has done. It can be one thing to know it in our head, but when we worship the Lord, he reveals it to us as truth. Something that we knew before, which may have had little impact on how we thought or what we did becomes alive to us, and God’s presence strengthens us and gives us the clarity we needed. There have been many times during my spiritual journey where I felt depleted, but spending some time with my eyes fixed on Him, rather than my problems brought me tremendous strength, and silenced the nagging doubts and anxieties in my heart. So today do you feel overwhelmed by the task before you? Do you feel that you couldn’t possibly do everything that the Lord requires of you? I would invite you to slow down and breathe, understanding that God has got this and that as we focus on the giver of strength, rather than the task at hand, His grace will empower us to do all that He requires and more if we will just find our strength in the Lord.