The Need To Stretch

It’s an early morning ritual that I have: Soon after rising from a night of sleep, my body has an almost uncontrollable urge to stretch. It’s nothing complicated or elaborate; it just feels good to extend my arms above my head and reach for the sky. The urge to stretch also strikes after an hour or two in an automobile or an airplane. My muscles remind me that they’ve been inactive for too long.
We’ve often observed that realities in the physical realm have spiritual counterparts. In this case we can see the need to spiritually stretch ourselves. A failure to do so can be damaging.
Paul pointed to this need in his first letter to Timothy: “But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself rather to godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7, NKJV). “Exercise” is from the Greek “gumnazo”, the word from which we receive our “gymnasium”. A gym is a place to train one’s muscles; Christianity is a life in which we train our spiritual abilities. Godliness is our goal, and it can’t be obtained passively.
Christians should stretch themselves because of the example of Jesus. A leper came to Jesus, asking for the Lord’s healing touch. Jesus’ compassion showed when He “put out His hand and touched him” (Mark 1:41). Jesus could have healed the man from across the street; there was no need for him to touch the leper. But would the leper have known Jesus’ love if our Lord had not stretched out his hand to touch him? And how will others know that the love of Jesus dwells in our hearts if we don’t reach out to them (see 1 John 3:17)?
On another occasion the Lord’s stretching resulted in the rescue of a disciple. Peter, upon seeing Jesus walk on the water, asked to be enabled to join the Master. When he was granted the ability, Peter’s faith shrank and he began to sink. “And immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him . . .” (Matthew 14:31). A tragic end for Peter was averted because of the Lord’s compassionate reach. How many Christians might be rescued from apostasy if their brethren reached out to recover them (see Galatians 6:1,2)?
It is a fact that our physical bodies deteriorate if we don’t stretch the muscles God gave us. Why should we find it surprising that our souls also need to be regularly stretched? Serious spiritual problems loom for pew potatoes!

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Tim Hall

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