This week I was reminded of something I have not been very faithful in. I tried on an outfit that I hadn’t worn in a while and it didn’t fit as nicely as it used to . It was a little tight in places. It wasn’t so tight that other people notice, but I could feel that it didn’t fit as nicely as it had a few months ago. I used to exercise pretty regularly. I am sharing this confession because at HCM we have been talking about being part of the body. We have looked at how we are all important and how we are all connected through Jesus. Last week we were reminded that there are rules to follow to help us get along as a group– or help us stay healthy. As a body, we want to be healthy and strong. Tonight we read from Exodus 15:2. “The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my Father’s God, and I will exalt him.”
Strength. Being strong. We often say that the Lord is our strength– how does that make us strong?
Take a styrofoam cup– this represents the world. Our world is filled with things that can hurt us as Christians. There’s temptation, fear, peer pressure, persecution– lots of things that challenge us. To represent these things add some water to the cup (fill about half full).
Now take an ordinary sheet of white paper. This paper represents you and me. Place two books on a flat surface about six inches apart. Use the paper to make a bridge between the two books.
What do you think will happen if you put the world full of temptation and other bad stuff on top of us? Do you think the paper bridge will be able to hold up the cup? NO! The paper is too weak. It is just like us–we can’t handle all of the things that we put into this cup. On our own we would give in to the pressure. What can we do?
Well the answer is simple! We need to make the paper stronger. The paper needs strength. We need to do something so that it will be able to hold up the cup. We need to find ways that we can become stronger. We need to exercise! What kind of exercise will help us build up our faith?
As you list different ways, fold the piece of paper like a fan.
- Read the Bible– learn what it says.
- Pray– have conversations with God.
- Listen– take time to hear his voice.
- Worship– Give God your praise.
- Put God first.
- Serve others.
Now comes the fun part. Take the folded paper and place it as a bridge between the books. Now balance the cup on top. It will be able to withstand the pressures of “the world”. The Lord is our strength. We need to exercise our faith in him so that we grow stronger and stronger.
We also read from Nehemiah 8:10; “The joy of the Lord is my strength”.
There is a story in the Bible, in the book of Nehemiah, that tells of Ezra reading the scriptures to the people. The people didn’t have Bibles of their own, so they depended on the priests to read it to them. Everyone was gathered around, and Ezra read from early morning until the middle of the day. The people listened very carefully. They realized that they hadn’t been living right and were very sorry. They all began to cry! Nehemiah, the governor, told everyone to go and eat a special meal and give food to the poor. He told them to be happy in the Lord. His exact words were, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” The people did as Nehemiah said and started living with a joyful heart because they understood God’s laws.
What does this story mean for us at HCM? Can we have strength in the joy of the Lord today? Living God’s way is still the way to have strength and joy.
We need to exercise to keep our faith strong and we need to show each other and remind each other through JOY– the joy of the Lord is our strength. JOY is actually an exercise that will help us to stay strong.
J– we need to work at keeping JESUS first.
O– we need to love OTHERS
Y– we need to put YOU last.
In a “me, me, me” world this is not easy. We need to work at it daily. Exercise.