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Posted: December 13, 2012 7:36 p.m.

Exercising your spiritual muscles

"We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn't put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."
Romans 5:3-5
(Common English Bible)

"You know it's winter when dead wood starts falling around." I remember my mom saying these words a few years ago after she had taken a tumble which landed her in some physical therapy. Well, it must be winter because apparently I have had the same problem. In the last year, I have managed to mismanage my steps three times, each time landing me on the hard ground, and finally landing me in physical therapy.

My wonderful therapists at Newton Medical Center have worked with me, have given me new exercises and have encouraged me as I have worked out some of the issues in my creaky limbs, but it has not been easy nor without pain. They have taught me to endure, however, and it is starting to pay off as the pain subsides.

Sometimes we have spiritual pains that need to be worked out as well. The Apostle Paul tells us that our problems will produce in us endurance and that through our endurance, we can build spiritual character which in turn gives us hope. Working spiritual muscles is never a walk in the park and comes with sometimes painful pruning of habits or attitudes that weigh us down, but with the proper endurance in the right direction, we can build our spiritual muscles.

During the past two weeks, I have walked with several families through tragedies and terminal illnesses that have weighed heavily on all of our hearts and lives. In the midst of trauma and tragedy, we often cannot even pray for ourselves because words just will not come. It is for those times that we need strong spiritual muscles. We build our faith and Christian character in the good times so that even in the darkest times of our lives, we will have hope. At those times when we can't even think of the words, the Holy Spirit in us prays for us, even interpreting our groans and sighs into prayers that God understands.

So how do we exercise and build those spiritual muscles? We use daily spiritual exercises that John Wesley called the Means of Grace - the methods by which we build our faith: Bible study, prayer, fasting, Christian fellowship, worshiping in community, and partaking of the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. How are you building your spiritual muscles today?

Rev. Jan McCoy is the associate pastor of Covington First United Methodist Church in downtown Covington. She may be reached at


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