"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. "
I Peter 1: 3-7, NIV
Years ago I worked in the fitness industry and led a fitness-based ministry. As a trainer, you learn to focus on helping clients develop back and abdominal muscles as a gateway to overall health. Core strength informs balance and the proper execution of arm, leg , and shoulder exercises. It supports good posture and overall flexibility. It helps people move safely and wisely. Good musculature begins with core work.
Peter addresses our spiritual core in much the same fashion. Core faith is developed through trials. As fire refines gold, trials develop muscles of faith. In God's fascinating patterning, the process of developing physical muscles even echoes the process of developing faith muscles. The first few times you use new sets of muscles, it is very painful (especially the day after your workout!). They feel sore, and you wonder if you are doing the exercises correctly (ironically, generally, the better your form is, the more sore you will be). As you continue to faithfully work out, your muscle pain decreases and a sense of strength develops. You begin to feel more competent. You can do more repetitions. You learn to breathe more evenly, and calmly execute the moves. When your instructor calls for a three-minute plank, you do not feel like you might just throw up.
Trials in life work the same way. As we trust our Savior in a trial, we rely on prayer and His Word to walk through. Often, we do not feel competent for what is ahead. We are not sure of ourselves. It's painful to operate on faith, and we wonder if we are doing it right. As we continue following Christ's call to do hard things like love, forgive, and trust, we feel a bit stronger. Our faith solidifies. We begin to move away from fear and toward faith more readily. We start to feel stronger.
On this side of heaven we will not be who we want to be, but we are also not who we once were. There has been progress. Jesus has developed in us, through trials and griefs of many kinds, a stronger core.
What kind of spiritual core muscles are most difficult for you to flex (think forgiveness, self-control, love, joy, peace, patience...)?
Have you seen progressive growth in this area?
What intentional plan could you make to help develop these core muscles?