Someone once said, “Too many people confine their exercise to jumping to conclusions, running up bills, sidestepping responsibility, pushing their luck, and stretching the truth.” While we don’t want to stretch the truth, it is a good idea to stretch your muscles. Stretch before exercise. Stretch in the middle of the day. Get up from your desk and stretch. Some of the benefits of stretching are said to be increased circulation, flexibility, increased range of motion (which reduces the risk of injury), and reduced stress.
Think about what is involved in stretching a muscle. You take it to where it is extended and move beyond that point. As you stretch farther and more frequently, you are able to stretch even more without as much difficulty.
An interesting story appears in Matthew and Mark about a man with a withered hand. Jesus was entering the synagogue and saw this man. You’ll remember that the Pharisees were trying to find a way to accuse Jesus, so they asked what they considered to be a trick question…one that either way He answered, they would have reason to accuse Him of doing wrong. They asked Jesus if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. Jesus answered that it was a no-brainer to reach down and pull a sheep out of a pit on the Sabbath. Normally, that would be considered work, but to save the sheep, it was perfectly OK. So, therefore, yes, it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath.
Then, He turned to the man with the shriveled hand and said Stretch out your hand.1 Immediately it was completely restored…as he stretched it out. Think about it for a moment. We don’t know if this was a birth defect, a disease, or the result of an accident. In any event, the hand had withered. Maybe from lack of use or lack of muscle. There may have been no bone structure in his hand. But stretching it out was something he could not do. But Jesus asked him to do it.
What about you? What is Jesus asking you to stretch? Stretch out your faith? Stretch out of your comfort zone in some way? Maybe it’s talking about your faith to someone you know. Maybe it’s increasing your giving and trusting God to provide. There are innumerable ways to stretch. God may have already called something to your attention. Maybe He’s waiting for you to ask. He’ll show you if you ask…and listen.
Just as the man’s hand extended as he stretched it out, God will give you strength…as you stretch your faith…as you stretch your giving…as you stretch your witness…whatever it is God is asking you to stretch. It most likely will take you passed the point of your comfort, but your strength will increase as you do it.
And, the spiritual benefits parallel the physical benefits. Increased circulation…God will allow you more opportunities to stretch your faith…more opportunities to give…more chances to use your talents as you use them. Flexibility…you’ll find your spirit is not as rigid as you watch what God is doing through and around you. Reduced stress…as you exercise your faith…in whatever form that takes…you will become increasingly more comfortable with whatever you are doing for Him.
So, how about some spiritual exercise? Jumping to do what God has asked. Running to finish the race before you. Sidestepping excuses not to be involved. Pushing past your comfort zone. Stretching your faith. You’ll reap the benefits every day!
Johns Creek Baptist Church