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I am making an effort to play one round of golf each week during the summer. One basic lesson, is that it helps to stretch before I get to that first tee box. It is best to warm up in order to hit the ball any distance (though even then, it doesn't always go very far!). Have you ever heard about how professional golfers spend an hour or so stretching and hitting practice balls before they ever play the first hole?

When I think about sports and stretching, I can picture two kinds of athletes, The Pro and the Weekend Warrior. The difference is simple: No matter the sport, “the Pro” will always stretch their muscles really well. It keeps injuries to a minimum even if they have to catch or jump, to reach or dunk, to tackle or block, throw, run, serve, and a dozen other things that require stretching!

Then there are the “Weekend Warriors”. Most are too impatient to ever take the time to stretch adequately. Some say that those who are 18 to 29 are the Studs, whereas those over 30 years of age, are the Duds. Hmmm, that would include me! Logic would suggest that the older we get, the more important it is to STRETCH – but few want to actually compensate for age in this way.

There is value in stretching. It enables us to reach farther, keep potential injuries to a minimum, and despite the groans that stretching might bring initially, we reduce the chances of suffering bigger pains later on!

The need to stretch is clear, however, the desire to stretch is hard to maintain.

These lessons about stretching also apply to our spiritual lives as well. As Christians, we need to stretch spiritually, and learn how to maintain our desire to keep stretching.

When was the last time we as a church took a ‘leap of faith’ (acted despite our fears), to accomplish something big for God? Hebrews 11:1 reminds us that faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

Faith is not about coming up with a great idea and then asking God to make it happen. If we can clearly see how something will be successful, there is no faith involved! That’s simply using our own well-known resources and abilities. Furthermore, think about this: just because we accomplish our own plans and goals, it doesn’t mean that what we are doing is pleasing to God. Nor does it really mean that we are living by faith. Perhaps we’re just really good planners, and are fortunate to have great resources to pull together in order to meet our goals.

Faith is about trusting God and moving ahead with action and determination, even when the outcomes are uncertain.

Consider our church for a moment. We just voted to accept the new budget for the 2011/2012 year. We have always prepared the church budget by first reviewing how much money was offered in the previous year. Out of those sums, the next year’s budget is calculated. But where is the faith in that approach?

Can you imagine instead, stretching out in faith and praying, “Lord, this is what we believe you want us to do. It will cost “X” amount of dollars that we don't have, so we are going to add it to our budget and trust that you will help us bring in that much additional money.” Do we really believe God can provide for our finances as a church?

We have over 600 muscles in our human bodies, and each one works together, from helping to pump our blood, to lifting up a hymn book. It is very challenging to stretch all of our muscles! When I dislocated my elbow, I had to go to physical therapy. One thing I quickly learned, was that other parts of my body were compensating for my useless arm. Finally, the therapy began to pay off, but only with a lot of pain. We have heard the old saying, “no pain, no gain,” well, the same is true when stretching our faith.

My point is, that as a group of believers, we are all a part of the body of Christ, and it is known as the church. We need all parts of the body to live in faith, in order to be truly healthy and to discover what is pleasing to God.

We are called to stretch our faith – all of us together! It is one thing to say we have faith, but it's quite another thing to truly walk in faith. The problem with stretching our faith, is that we know we need to, but maintaining our joyful desire is challenging. Are we up to that challenge this year?

~Pastor J

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