35. Hebrews 12:1-3 Keeping spiritually fit.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. NLT
If the writer to the Hebrews had known that we all have a mix of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles throughout our body he might have used them as an illustration of what he wanted to say. If, like me, you are short of the fast-twitch type you always come in at the back of all the sprint races. You may, however, do much better at the cross-country races. He would have been asking us to ensure that we develop as much slow-twitch spiritual muscle as possible. Experts in such things tell us our muscles are a mixture. Slow -twitch enable us to keep going for a long time: run in cross country races or marathons, or row across the Atlantic. Fast-twitch are good for sprinting, playing tennis and catching the bus. Different people have different amounts of each of these in the blend in their legs and everywhere else. Chickens have slow-twitch muscles in their legs with the brown meat so that they can walk and run a long way. The white meat of their breasts and wings gives them much better intense activity like flying, but they can’t keep it up for long. You may know some people, there are too many of them around, who become Christians with a great flourish in their early days or their teen years. They are full of enthusiasm rushing around telling us all to follow Jesus, do a lot of evangelising, go to many youth rallies and so on. But where are they a few years later? They seem to have disappeared from the church scene. Oh, dear. They were so concerned with their fast-twitch spirituality they failed to develop any of the slow-twitch sort.
The writer is talking about slow-twitch spirituality. He talks about ‘endurance’ in 12: 1; about not becoming weary and giving up in 12: 3; about getting a harvest in 12: 11; and, of course, the outstanding characteristic of the heroes of chapter 11 - Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and all the rest is that they fought their way through many difficulties to reach their barely understood destinations.
Above all there is Jesus, who endured hostility and the shame of the cross, because he knew he was going to a place of honour at the right hand of God on high. We know where we are going - not quite to such an honourable place, but into his immediate presence.
If you want to stay healthy into your old age it is no good waiting until you are old before doing anything about it! It is no good thinking you were fit and healthy at school when you played a lot of football, cricket or netball. Health is something that has to be kept up throughout life.
All that is true of physical health, but it is also true of spiritual health. Don’t think you can turn off your fast-twitch spirituality when you leave your teens, get married, move house to another area with the need to fit into a new church. It will probably slowly decline, as the years pass but it must be replaced steadily by slow-twitch spirituality. That does not mean that you just become one of the too many people who go to church, sit in their pew or their comfortable chair and think that is now their Christian life. After all you would have a job to stay even reasonably healthy physically if you only did anything remotely healthy just once a week. No! You need to join a prayer group, a study group, teach Sunday School, or do something to maintain a reasonable level of spiritual fitness. Come on - get off your backside and do something! (with apologies if you already do.)
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