Archive for the ‘Chapter 8’ Category

With All Your Strength…

January 10, 2010

I’ve continued to think about loving the Lord with all of me. The greatest commandment began with the Lord, and continued to offer the appropriate response from us toward God (Mark 12:29-31). We’ve explored loving the Lord with all of our mind, but that leads me to consider loving the Lord with all my strength. What could that look like?

I immediately tend to imagine a physical strength kind of thing. Maybe I’ve read a few of Paul’s illustrations and analogies. I wonder what it would look like to love God with all my strength? Maybe it would look a little like someone training for the Olympics. Corinth being located in ancient Greece where the Games began, Paul is speaking their language.

Don’t you know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one wins the prize? So then, run to win! Now every athlete in training submits himself to strict discipline, and he does it just to win a laurel wreath that will soon wither away. But we do it to win a crown that will last forever. Accordingly, I don’t run aimlessly but straight for the finish line; I don’t shadow-box but try to make every punch count. I treat my body hard and make it my slave so that, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:24-27, JNT)

I thoroughly enjoy getting outside my “usual translation”; I think it provides a unique opportunity to look at Scripture from a fresh perspective. Sometimes I get a bit more information from comparing translations, so I recommend it. As you can see in the Jewish New Testament, the terms are not entirely different from what we would recognize, and it even lends itself to a slightly clearer understanding of the passage from a cultural perspective. It’s a little “laurel wreath” they trained for in the Games. Paul doesn’t meander, but runs “straight for the finish line”.  His boxing is for real, with intent to connect! Those were my first observations.

You know I had to take a look at this passage a little more closely, right? When I peeked at David H. Stern’s Jewish New Testament Commentary (a companion volume to the JNT) I was pleasantly surprised. He writes, “One can never rest in one’s laurels; on the contrary, having invited others to enter the competition, one must oneself continue to fight temptation and run the harder” (Stern, p. 467). Regarding how the athlete in training “submits himself to strict discipline,” Stern suggests he “exercises self-control in everything” (Stern, p. 468). For some reason I grinned when I read a literal translation for “I treat my body hard” in verse 27: “I give my body a black eye” (Stern, p. 468).

As we start looking into loving God with all of our strength, we have to notice the body is part of this focus. We’ve explored the mind, and critical to that part is loving the Lord with all your heart and soul. But, the body, our strength, can’t be ignored. How will we use our strength to love God?

The questions that come to mind for me are about my physical health and strength. Does this mean considering  the things put into the body that will either strengthen or weaken it? Does diet and exercise play into this? I think it does. Our physical well-being allows for us to be used in ways we might not otherwise have potential if we were ignoring our health and well-being. But, don’t forget that “physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things” (1 Tim. 4:8). Also important to address is that sometimes we’ve been given a period of time (or a whole life) inside a body that isn’t healthy for whatever reason. Praying through something like this might be more difficult, even heart-wrenching. Whatever we have (even with what little we have), can we agree we could dialogue with God about how to love him with it?

Some of loving God this way is about loving God’s people that way. Should strength intimidate…or appropriately show love? Is strength lending a helping hand to someone? If someone needed help to move, and it was in your physical power, would you do it? Would you literally walk with someone across a street, into a tough situation, a “bad news” doctor’s appointment, a court room? Would you recognize that you’ve been given strength…and you can lovingly give it away?

The last thing I want to wrap up with is a favorite Scripture:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Gal. 6:9, 10, NIV)

Let’s pray for clear understanding of how we can love the Lord with all our strength…and the Lord’s people, too!


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