[#pictureAdvent] December 5: STRENGTHEN

By Debbie Allen
Community UMC, Co-Pastor
Fruitland Park, FL

First, read I Thessalonians 3:13

For several years I was a regular runner and then life got in the way and I made lots of excuses as to why I couldn’t exercise anymore. In the last few months I’ve tried to pick it up again and much to my dismay have learned I don’t run nearly as fast as I used to. In fact at a recent 5k, there were people who passed me speedwalking faster than I was “running!” Without regularly exercising the muscles in my legs, I have lost some muscle memory and strength.

In our verse today, Paul is writing to the church at Thessalonica. He’s received a good report from Timothy who had been ministering among them. Paul thanks them for their faith and support and seeks to encourage them in ways they could remain strong in the face of opposition and as he concludes the letter he writes: “And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”

Our race of faith is similar to running. If you do not run and train with frequency, then you will never be able to run a marathon. This life is marathon and we need to practice. For us to have the strength to finish our race of faith, we need the strength that can only come from God. If we do not engage regularly in the disciplines of our faith then we can lose strength and even lose heart. We need to spend time in our relationship with God — listening and speaking to God regularly through prayer, making time to be present in community for worship, finding ways and places to hear God’s voice through the Word.

The more we work on cultivating this relationship, the more strength we will find in our faith. 

When life gets busy with many things clamoring for our attention, like in this season leading up to the celebration of Christmas, the temptation is to let go of some of these spiritual disciplines and practices for what seem to be more time-sensitive issues.  But this is precisely the time when we need this grounding and strengthening the most. I always find my celebration of Christmas to be much sweeter when I have taken the time during Advent to work on strengthening my heart and relationship to God on a consistent and frequent basis.  

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

1) What spiritual disciplines do you rely on to find spiritual strength?

2) When are you the most tempted to rely upon your own strength?

3) What’s one new spiritual practice you could develop in this season of Advent?