I am not sure about you, but the stretch it takes to be consistent in exercise is not my favorite. I know it’s good for me and I exercise most every day, but much of the time, it’s difficult. I know I am better for it and it keeps me mentally sharp, as well as improving my health, helping me to be in a better mood, and quite possibly extending my life. But the push to keep running, keep lifting, keep on that elliptical machine is not all that fun, nor does the stretch to do it cease. I know when I was training for a marathon, it was a stretch not only to lace up my shoes and start pounding the pavement, but also to prep to make sure I had enough water and to carve out the time to run. Now, yes the ‘runners high’ did and does kick in after stretching out to extend beyond, but it still required the effort to get and be stretched! The truth is, the stretch is important. Sure, stretching your muscles before the exercise, but also the stretch to go beyond.
This stretching reality of life hits all areas of life: work, home, friends, school, and the ups and downs of life experiences. At work we are stretched with projects and tasks we are either asked to do or take on that push us beyond. At home or in our relationships with friends we are stretched ever further as we seek to love and care for others in an unselfish way. At school the stretch is every day as we expand our knowledge and learn, and budget our time to get assignments done. Life’s ups stretch us to win well and not let our accomplishments take us down the road of arrogance. Life’s difficulties and even tragedies stretch our faith and emotions as we slog through the troubles of the day. In all this the question comes, how do we stretch well? How do we maximize these stretching moments? I believe an answer is found in three actions; to look up, look in, and look out.
To look up is to consider the God of the Bible. Jesus has said…
Matthew 11:28 Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Like a great coach, Jesus wants to walk with us in these stretching times not only to give us the needed rest, but also to get us back out there because we gain from these stretching trials.
James 1:2-3 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
This steadfastness is an endurance and a building of our character. Much of character is built in times where we are stretched or in suffering through different trials of life.
Romans 5:3-5 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
God’s deep desire for us is to be the people He created us to be and that takes good coaching through the trails and tough times of life. When we come to faith in Him, His Spirit is right there guiding us and helping us stretch well, maximizing our stretch! So look up to God and He will help you get the most out of your stretching experiences (see also James 1:5, Proverbs 3:5-6).
Looking in is that natural introspection and considering of what we can learn from this time of stretching. Too often, we want to get to the end of the ordeal and yet there is much to gain from the stretching time of waiting. Waiting squeezes us, allowing us to see our issues and ways to work on them. In some of my stretching moments, my impatience is revealed along with my tendency to want to be in control. I am challenged to trust God and lean on Him as I wait.
Psalm 40:1-3 I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.
To look out is to see that my life is not just about me, but the others God has placed in my life. My stretching can help me be a better person as I grow and learn. As well, my stretching and what I learn from it can help others who are being stretched in a similar way.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
If we want to improve, be better, be the people God created us to be, we will be stretched. To maximize these times of stretching is to look up to God, trusting Him to guide, look in and be a bit introspective, and look out to help others. Let’s maximize our stretch.
As we are stretched, church is a great place to gain perspective and learn. If you do not regularly attend a church, we would love to invite you to attend Cypress Church or one or our branch churches. Our web site has all the information for all our campuses: www.cypresschurch.net . You would be among others who are seeking to maximize their stretch as well.
Seeking to gain from the stretch along with you,