“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4.8-9 NIV).
I have three weeks until my first ever bodybuilding competition. I’m a little nervous because I’ve never competed in a show before. I don’t know exactly what to expect, and I can’t be certain that I am fully prepared. I’ve done research, and I think I have everything I need; but until I actually compete, I truly won’t know what to expect. However, I have given God my willingness and obedience, and I know He will ensure that I am ready to do His work.
“God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit” (Corinthians 5.5 NLT).
I’ve lifted weights and built muscle over the past two and a half months. I know I’m stronger because I can lift heavier and I feel the strength gains in my body. But I also know that I still have one last push left to do. Almost like rounding the final corner of the final lap around the track, I have one more leg to go, and I need to shift into full gear.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12.1 NLT).
The final leg will make or break you. The final leg is what separates athletes from the rest of the crowd. If I did the show today, I would not do well. Even though I have muscle, I still have 17% body fat hiding the muscle. Though 17% is a very good percentage, and I would like to stay at this weight on a normal basis, to compete I will need to get down to at least 12% body fat. This is extreme and should not be maintained for long, but competitive sports are extreme and the body can handle the stress for brief moments.
“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Corinthians 4.17 NLT).
But I have to be willing to be all-in and go to the extreme. I’ve done extreme before. I’ve done mental extreme—getting my Master’s Degree in two years. I’ve done physical extreme—preparing for a Mixed Martial Arts cage fight. I’ve done emotional extreme—watching my twin sister nearly die in a car accident. And I’ve done spiritual extreme—allowing God to break me, so He could do a work inside of me.
“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2.13 NLT).
It’s the spiritual extreme that usually no one sees. It’s an internal work and very hard to explain to others. People may look at your life and see all the ways that you are blessed, but they may not understand the breaking and reshaping that’s happening inside your spirit. God’s work inside of each of us is a lonely process. And the end result is always a furthering submission to the Holy Spirit.
“Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you” (Job 22.21 NIV).
So what does extreme accomplish? It helps us to achieve more and go further in less amount of time. It is a difficult season where we change rapidly with an end goal in sight. It is a short season when we are working full tilt towards a finish line. But it is not something to be continued for a long period of time, and most often a rest will follow the final push.
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3.14 NIV).
God sees the fullness of our lives, and He will allow seasons of extreme when He has a goal in sight for us. I think out of all the extremes, the spiritual one is most difficult to detect because it takes faith. Many times we can’t see the plans that God has for us down the road. We don’t realize that He has a special “event” for us that will further His Kingdom on earth. But I I know that if we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, we will feel an urgency in our spirit and a readiness for something yet to come.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29.11 NIV).
When we feel the Holy Spirit prompting a spiritual extreme in us, we need to trust that there is something He is trying to prepare us for. I believe that many Christians miss so many blessings in their lives because they are not ready for them. That is why we must daily consult with the Holy Spirit, asking Him if there is anything today that He wants us to do. We will find that God is providing us everything we need for future victories in pre-ordained moments along the way. We just need to listen, obey and get extreme.
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10.27 NIV).