The author writes a section that seems like a bunch of proverbs lumped together to teach us how to live with no regrets.
12 Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. 14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; 16 that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.
This seems like wise advice as we kick off the New Year. The parties are over and most of you have headed back to work, school, or both. So now what? How do we take this “clean slate” we have declared for ourselves and move forward into this year? We just read it.
The references to the body are double layered. First, they refer to ourselves. If there is something about us that is spiritually weak, we must work to strengthen it. Sometimes we need a little spiritual rehab to learn how to walk again, or maybe even for the first time. The reason this is necessary is so that this part of your spiritual self doesn’t fade away and die off. Do you need to enhance your prayer life? Is your daily bible study time lacking? Do you avoid church activities and only hang out with the congregation on Sunday mornings? Whatever it may be, we must identify it and work to strengthen it. Our spiritual deadness will only spread like gangrene until we end up like Esau.
Secondly, this analogy applies to the Body of Christ as a whole. We work together as a body to help and strengthen the other parts. If your right arm is weak, your left arm will help it along. If your leg is feeble, your hand and arm will help move it as necessary to continue accomplishing the task at hand. The way we do this is revealed in the next two verses (14 & 15). As we pursue peace with all men (that excludes nobody), others will be lifted up and strengthened. As we seek out our own sanctification, we can be of service to others in theirs. When we read verse 15, we must make sure we are reading it to understand that we are the vessels of God’s grace to others. Without it, many will become defiled, immoral, and godless.
As we read and apply the Word of God to our lives, we will begin to experience His wholeness and Holiness in our lives. The author here is encouraging us not to be foolish and turn away from it in the deception and lust of this world we live in. The example of Esau selling his birthright and inheritance for a bowl of soup drives this to the heart of physical hunger driving our decisions instead of spiritual wisdom. While our lives are dedicated to Christ and following Him and these spiritual disciplines are a command, we must recognize why they are commands. They aren’t rules of oppression, but elements that are to sanctify us and keep us on the path of righteousness. When we see them as opportunities to grow closer to God and understand more of who He is and who we are because of Him, they no longer seem like things we have to do, but things we get to do. None of it would be possible without Christ’s sacrifice in the first place. Spiritual disciplines are a gift from God that give us ways to communicate with, interact with, and learn from God.
What parts of your spiritual life are weak and need reinforcement? Have you put together a plan to strengthen and improve them? Have you been looking at spiritual disciplines as begrudged requirements or holy opportunities?