Physical fitness is more than just a craze these days; for some people it is a way of life. Some people are so religious about their gym memberships that they ignore their church memberships. (But that is not the point of this article.) It is easy to find spinning classes, pool aerobics, weight training, circuit training, and various forms of cardio training. Most of the programs designed to tone and sculpt the muscles rely on some form of resistance training. In order to build muscle, one must cause the muscle to react to increased resistance. This may be provided by weights, elastic bands, or in some other form. If one does not increase the resistance one cannot lose weight or build muscle.
The spiritual life is much like the physical. Without challenge, no growth occurs. And growth is desirable. “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” (1 Pet 2:2) And yet, the writer of Hebrews addresses those who have not grown.
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb 5:12-14)
While that nutrition is important, so is resistance training. We should have, as that writer said, our “senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” But how do we do that? There is a seeming paradox. God does not want us to succumb to temptation to sin, but without that temptation we cannot exercise our discernment. That is where the devil actually works God’s plan.
Nobody likes a personal trainer, at least while they are doing their job. Some people may even consider their personal trainers for physical things to be the devil. Particularly when that individual adds pounds to the weight bar or runs the speed and angle up on the treadmill, people curse their trainers as the epitome of evil. Nevertheless, they are doing a good work. The same can be said of the devil, himself. Although the temptation itself is not to be viewed as desirable, yet it is valuable, if one uses it properly. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (Jas 4:7) If you succeed in God’s resistance training, that is resisting the devil, the result is growth and strength.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. (1 Pet 5:8-10)
The devil, like the Borg, says, “Resistance is futile.” God says resistance is fertile.