“But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14).
I remember a time I was in a gym lifting weights. I was in Ft. Lewis, Washington, and enjoying my time in the army. At the time, I had not been lifting weights very long; as such I was struggling with a few measly pounds on the bench press. However, next to me were two other soldiers who were also benching. To my utter astonishment, they were lifting over five-hundred pounds! The bar seemed to bend under that weight, and the men gave a low guttural grunt as they slowly pushed the weight up from their chest.
I was thinking that if I had that weight on my chest I too would have been groaning – but it would have been the sound of my last breath coming out of my broken body! At the same time I was also encouraged. I realized that those two men didn’t get to that level overnight. They definitely spent years working up to that point. They were strong because of constant practice.
The writer of Hebrews is essentially making the same point about Christian maturity. Growing in Christ is something that takes intentional effort. Just as a person gains strength from constant use of their muscles, so too a Christian grows spiritually by constant use of their spiritual capabilities. Spiritual strength requires spiritual exercise.
The verse above says that “solid food” is for the mature. Solid food is the meat of Christianity but can only be obtained through “constant practice.” It is like the heavy weights of spirituality. One does not get to that level overnight, and certainly not by accident.
Rather, the ability to become a spiritually strong person who knows good from evil, and who can live a life of faith without compromising with the world, is developed over time with intentionality.
The reality is that God desires, and even demands that we grow in Christ. He wants you to be filled with the Spirit. He wants you to be living your life according to the Bible. He wants you to experience His power in your life. He wants you to trust Him with all things.
The truth is that, as Christians, we are going in one of two directions. We are either growing in Christ, or being drawn away from Christ (Luke 8:11-15). There is no neutral ground where we can be comfortable. The authentic Christian life is a constant uphill struggle against the world, the flesh, and the evil one. The moment we stop exercising our spiritual muscles is the moment one of the three forces of worldliness begins to take advantage of us.
I still go to the gym. I haven’t reached the five-hundred pound mark on the bench, and most likely never will; but I have come a long way since that day in Ft. Lewis. As a Christian I too have grown much over the last sixteen years. I have not arrived, to be sure, but I seek daily to exercise my spiritual muscles so that I can continue to grow in the things of God. If you know that your spiritual muscles are getting a little flabby, join me at the gym. I will most likely need a spotter the next time I’m on the bench.