by Gina Lynnes
Back when I was in elementary school, every year in gym my classmates and I had to take the National Fitness Test.
It was among the most dreaded events of my childhood.
For me, National Fitness Test day was the day I found out how fast I couldn’t run…how far I couldn’t jump, how many sit ups I couldn’t do…and how many rope burns I could get by trying (and failing) to climb hand-over-hand up that stupid cord they tied to the gymnasium ceiling.
It was the day I re-discovered the thrill of dangling helplessly from the chin-up bar, unable to hoist my pale, gangly frame more than a couple of inches upward…while some well-tanned jockette beside me popped up and down like a slice of rye springing out of a toaster.
Although I’ve recovered from that childhood trauma and I’m much more physically fit now (okay, I still can’t do chin ups, but I can run and do sit ups) naturally speaking, I would never want to take the National Fitness Test again.
Nor would I wish it on you.
But there is one fitness test I wish all of us who are believers could take every year. Aspiritual fitness test. A test that would help us determine if our faith is growing stronger or weaker. A test that would help us evaluate our ability to endure the trials and temptations that may come our way in the coming year. A test that would reveal our true spiritual condition and motivate us to get ourselves into God’s gym a little more often to pump some scriptural iron, pray in tongues and build ourselves up on our most holy faith.
Why do I wish for such a test?
Because all too often, we don’t realize we’ve gotten out of shape until we’re facing serious trouble. (Remember, Jesus said that in this world you will have trouble.) We don’t know we’ve gotten weak until some circumstance of life crashes down on us and we find we don’t have the faith muscles to rise above it.
In my previous two articles, we’ve looked at a time in the life of David when he found himself in that very situation. The Amalekites had dealt him a devastating blow at Ziklag and initially David didn’t have the spiritual strength to do anything about it but cry. So, cry he did.
As we’ve already seen, however, David didn’t sit around crying for long. Instead, he dried his eyes, blew his nose and “strengthened himself in the LORD his God.”
What did he do next?
Then David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, “Please bring the ephod here to me.” And Abiathar brought the ephod to David. So David inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?” And He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all. So David went, he and the six hundred men who were with him…” (1 Sam. 30: 6-9)
If you’re wondering why I consider that incident in the life of David important enough to keep writing about, I’ll tell you.
It gives us template for victory.
It teaches us what to do when trouble comes and we find ourselves too weak and overwhelmed to deal with it in faith. It teaches us to:
1. Get honest with God. Tell Him just how you feel. Cry buckets if you need to and let Him comfort your heart with His love and grace.
2. Strengthen yourself in the Lord. Remind yourself of His promises, wait in His presence, worship and pray in the spirit until you can get your balance again.
3. Inquire of the Lord. Once the emotional tumult in your soul has subsided, ask God for His wisdom. Don’t just sully forth and do what you did last time some unexpected event blind-sided you. Get a specific word from God for this situation.
4. Then—and ONLY then—start taking action. Move out, not in anger, fear or in reaction to the situation but by faith in the Word God has given you.
That four-part strategy for victory helped David transform one of the most devastating events of his life into one of the most glorious victories. It took him from a condition of spiritual weakness and despair to a place of such strength that he was able to go charging into the Amalekites camp where he…
…attacked them from twilight until the evening of the next day. Not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men who rode on camels and fled. So David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away, and David rescued his two wives. And nothing of theirs was lacking, either small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything which they had taken from them; David recovered all. Then David took all the flocks and herds they had driven before those other livestock, and said, “This is David’s spoil.” (v. 16-20)
Wouldn’t you love to have that kind of spiritual strength? Wouldn’t you like to inquire of the Lord and have such clarity of mind and spirit that you could hear His answer as clearly as David did? Wouldn’t you enjoy going after the devils that have attacked you, your family or your church, and whipping those demonic rascals so thoroughly that they jump on their camels and flee in terror?
Well, you can!
That’s right. Even if you’ve let your spiritual muscles get a little slack. Even if you’ve been eating a spiritual diet of Twinkies and Ho Ho’s. Even if the devil has already knocked you flat and you’ve failed the Spiritual Fitness Test—you can still do what Popeye used to do in the old cartoons when he got fed up with the guys who were always picking on Olive Oyl. You can stand up and say:
“I’ve had all I can stands and I can’t stands no more!”
Then you can pull out your can of spiritual spinach and chow down until muscles start popping out all over your spirit.
You may think I’m joking but I’m not. I’m as serious as I can be. Not long ago, I had to do it myself. I was going through a season when it seemed like the devil was fiercely attacking me day after day. (Those seasons come in the life of every believer.) Sometimes the spiritual battles were so continual I felt like a demonic army was camped on my doorstep.
I tried just to count it all joy and keep standing in faith until I saw the victory. But quite honestly, the perpetual warfare sometimes wore me down to the point that I stopped looking for victory and just started hoping for the rapture.
The Believer’s Super-Spinach
Eventually, I realized I needed more spiritual muscle to stay on top of this particular challenge. But I was already doing most everything I knew to do to strengthen myself. I was praying and reading the Bible every day. I was going to church multiple times every week. I was listening to preaching on CD and tape.
Dear heavens, you might wonder, what else is there?
There is the pure, unprocessed Word of God.
That is high octane, grade A spiritual fuel. It’s the believer’s super-spinach. And it will take even the most weakened, beleaguered believer and turn him into the devil’s worst nightmare.
When I say the unprocessed Word of God, I don’t mean the preached Word you hear through ministers. Ministers are wonderful. They’re gifts of God to the body of Christ. If they function properly, they’ll be a great blessing to you. So you should definitely avail yourself of their supply.
But the unprocessed Word of God is not the Word that comes to you through another person—no matter how anointed that person might seem. The freshest, most nutrient dense Word is the Word of God that’s quickened to you by the Holy Spirit directly from the pages of your own Bible.
Now, that’s good eating! Every time. Without fail. And it will strengthen you in a way nothing else can.
Taking More Drastic Measures
There are any number of effective ways to feed directly on the Word. You can just sit down and read it for extended periods of time. You can focus on particular chapters and read them again and again until you saturate yourself in the spirit and overall message of them. You can underline and note the central themes and main thoughts that are repeated in them.
I’ve done those things in the past and they’ve blessed me. But this time, I had to take more drastic measures. Here’s why. When I’d just sit down to read, something—either the pressure of the circumstances or an actual demonic pressure—would distract me and cause my mind to wander. Suddenly I’d realize that while my eyes were reading the Bible, my mind was entertaining negative thoughts and fuming over the difficulties I’d been facing.
Somehow I needed to bring my thoughts back into captivity to the Word, so I decided to do something I hadn’t done since I was a 13-year-old member of the Girl’s Auxiliary in the Baptist Church. I decided to start memorizing scripture.
Buying Up the Time
I started with Psalm 27—the passage I’d been living on for the past few months. Since I don’t have any un-used hours in the day waiting to be filled with Bible memorization, I printed out a copy of the psalm and taped it to my bathroom mirror. That way, every day during the hour-long ordeal of making my outward man (which perishes day by day) presentable, I could reinvigorate my inner man by imprinting Psalm 27 on my mind.
I knew that would be a good thing. I just didn’t realize how good it would be.
I quickly found that to commit the psalm to memory most accurately, without rearranging phrases or words, I had to put everything else out of my mind and think very deeply about each verse. I had to contemplate and meditate until I not only knew the words but thoroughly grasped their meaning. I had to climb through the words, like I’d climb through a window, into the very heart of the psalm.
As I did that, something astonishing happened. Every negative thought fled and a profound peace filled my mind.
What a wonderful relief!
Before long, the words of Psalm 27 were actually abiding in me. They began to flow out of my heart much like they must have initially flowed out of David’s. As they did the Holy Spirit moved tangibly within me and upon me. I realized that as I meditated the verses, strength was being imparted to me. I was receiving the highest quality spiritual nourishment possible.
Within three days I had not only memorized Psalm 27, I had digested it. I had absorbed it. And because it was so alive in my mind, I could feed on it easily when I was driving to the store, unloading the dishwasher or cooking dinner. (Stop laughing, Kelly, I do cook sometimes. I do!)
Immediately, the tide of the spiritual battle turned. Instead of feeling like I was running from the devil, I began to rise up, resist him and watch him flee.
I stepped into the experience of the psalm I had memorized and could boldly say:
One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD. (verses 4-6)
Once I finished Psalm 27, I was truly pumped about what this high-octane, unprocessed spiritual fuel was doing for me and I was hungry for more.
So I brushed up on Psalm 23 and Psalm 91 until I had them fresh in my memory again. Then I started on Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. I just finished memorizing the first two chapters.
Crying and Dying
I must have read Philippians hundreds of times over the years but I never caught the spirit of it like I have now. As I’ve meditated over and memorized every word and phrase, the Holy Spirit has illuminated each one, revealing to me something of what was in Paul’s heart—and more importantly, the heart of the Lord—when those words were penned.
Sometimes now when I recite it aloud in front of the bathroom mirror, blow dryer in hand, I cry because the words move me so. Words I just skimmed past before. Words like…
“For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” (verse 8, NKJ version)
When you’re memorizing scripture, you see things in it you’d never see otherwise. You notice, for example, that Paul didn’t just say that he loved the Philippians. He said he longed for them with the affection of Jesus.
We need a lot more of that in the church these days, don’t you think? We need less of the so-called “love” that carries little or no emotional warmth with it, less of the icy “agape” that will say something harsh and wounding under the pretense of loving you enough to “tell you the truth.” We need more of the tender yearning, the gentle, kind-hearted, sweet affection of Jesus that Paul had for the Philippians.
Amazingly enough, I received some of that just in the process of meditating and memorizing Paul’s letter. The affection of Jesus that was in him as he wrote it was quickened in me by the Holy Spirit. And I was changed.
Tapping into the Power that Transforms the Soul
That’s no surprise. After all, James 1:21 assures us that the implanted word has the power to save (or change) our souls. Not just our spirits. Our souls. The Word of God has resident within it the supernatural ability to heal the broken places in our hearts, liberate us from the bondages of the past, drive away the oppression of the present, open our eyes to the things in ourselves we’ve been blind to, and set us free in every way.
The Word of God will do that. The Word. Not just prophecies and sermons that echo a few verses from the Word. But the Word itself. The beautiful, power-packed, Holy-Ghost-anointed, written Word of God that men shed their blood to get into print.
If we’re in a dark place and can’t find a way out, the Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. (Ps. 119:105, 130)
If we’re sick and we give attention to God’s Word, inclining our ear to it and keeping it in the eyes of our heart, that Word will become life to us and health to all our flesh. (Prov. 4:20-22)
If we’re defeated and we meditate on the Word day and night, it will make our way prosperous and we’ll have good success. (Josh. 1:8)
I realize that some of you old Word of Faith war horses might be saying, “Yeah, I know all that. But the Word without the Spirit is dry as dust. Some of the meanest Christians I know will absolutely beat you up, use the Word to do it, and walk away thinking they did you and God both a favor. I’m not interested in going back to that.”
I agree. So let’s not go back. Let’s go forward. Let’s learn a lesson from the past.
Let’s never, ever separate the Word and the Spirit again.
Every time we read or meditate the written Word, let’s do it in fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Let’s pray, Dear, mighty Spirit of Truth, Jesus said the words in this Book speak about Him. He is the Word. So please, as I read and meditate on these truths from the Bible, use them to speak to me of my beloved Master. Help me see Him and know Him in every phrase. Reveal Him to me more and more.
That’s what I’ve been saying lately and what’s happening as a result is amazing me. There have been times after I’ve read and studied the Word when I’ve just been relaxing, praying a little in other tongues, appreciating the Lord, when suddenly the Holy Spirit would bring some scripture passage to my remembrance. At times, it’s been a passage that has puzzled me for years, one that I quit trying to understand long ago.
In an instant, the meaning of it would flash like lightning into my heart and I would see something of Jesus I’d never seen before.
Study helps and commentaries are fine. I’m in favor of them. But the commentary of the Holy Spirit Himself is the best there is. None other even comes close.
As you can probably tell, I’ve fallen more deeply in love with my Bible through all this. And I’ve fallen more fully in love with my Lord Jesus too. Being in love is wonderful. It brings joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Sitting High on the Rock
“But what about the trial you’ve been going through?” you might ask. “What about the enemies that encamped around about you?”
Oh, I almost forgot about them. The Rock God has set me upon is so high above them, they look very small from here. And as long as I stay here, they can’t touch me. Too bad for them. Great for me.
I do want to warn you about something though. There’s a good possibility that if you start adding a lot of unprocessed, fresh-from-the-pages-of-your-Bible Word to your spiritual diet, you’ll start to lose your taste for some other things. Carnal entertainment and empty amusements may start to bore you. You may even begin to wonder what you ever saw in them.
Even more shocking, some preachers you used to enjoy may not appeal to you as much. That’s okay. You’re not backsliding. You’ve just developed a more discerning spiritual palate. You’ve started noticing the empty spiritual calories that surround the two or three scripture fragments their message is supposedly based upon.
You may even start spitting out some of the stuff you once mindlessly swallowed. That’s okay too. Do it. There’s plenty of purportedly “word-based” preaching out there that’s just plain wrong. And quite frankly, that trend is increasing, so be careful.
And read the label on everything you eat these days.
Don’t swallow every new “revelation” just because somebody heard a “word” from the Lord and found a way to string together a bunch of scriptures to prove it’s true.
Go back to the Bible for yourself. See what the major passages say about that topic. Meditate on those. Drink in the spirit of them. And reject out of hand any new revelation that is not plainly and unmistakably spelled out there. Even if such questionable revelations don’t poison us—and some of them will—they won’t build us up. They’ll puff us up and lead us to believe that we’ve attained some kind of special insight reserved for people of unusual spiritual stature.
We don’t need that kind of stuff. We need the plain, simple truth of the gospel. We need to know Jesus more deeply and fully. We need the kind of nutrient rich, spiritual diet that will empower us to fight the devil 24 hours a day like David fought the Amalekites.
We need the Word quickened to our own hearts by the Holy Spirit directly from the pages of our Bible.
That’s the stuff victory is made of. That’s what will transform us into the image of Jesus so that we can live as more than conquerors through Him who loves us. That’s what will unveil the reality of the living Christ before the eyes of the whole world.
When all else fails, the fresh, unprocessed Word of God will give us the strength to go charging after our foes like that little spinach-eating sailor from days gone by and, if you’ll pardon the expression, beat the living daylights out of them.
It truly is the right stuff.