It is not the beginning of a New Year. Nor are there pressing health issues that drive this subject.
But my bride and I are consistently becoming rather health-conscious — excuse me, I am becoming more health-conscious. Susie has always been so! … walking and running long distances as often as possible.
But for me, it came about a year ago when the doctor wanted to put me onto a prescription which was sure to be a medicine I would take for the rest of my life. I asked him what it would take for me to avoid that medication. His answer was simple – you need to lose weight.
Now some years ago, we had treated ourselves to a membership in what was then the brand new Highland County Family YMCA. I began a training program there at that time, which included training on the variety of machines that were available to help me become more physically fit!
In going through that introductory training, I found it very interesting that almost every one of the machines had a program button to help the individual determine the right amount of training at the right pace for the particular type of goals set for each individual person.
My particular concern at that time was to make sure that my heart was strong and my circulation was good. With heart disease running in my family, developing and maintaining a strong heart is something that is near and dear to me.
That is what we all want, isn’t it? A strong heart? A strong heart will be able to pump that life-giving blood to all the parts of our body which need it so desperately, and as we get older, we are all in need of that!
Well, the same thing is true spiritually! The one thing that will help us all to stay healthy spiritually is to have a strong heart spiritually as well.
In fact, the author to the Hebrews says so, “It is good for our hearts to be strengthened…” (13:9), and the Apostle Paul echoes that sentiment in his prayer for the believers in Ephesians 3:16, where he says, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being (meaning, your heart!)” In other words, one of the best things we can be striving toward in the Christian life is a strong heart!
And the author of Hebrews tells us (in 13:9) that the secret to developing a strong heart is NOT following a set of legalistic rules, which he calls “of no value” but by feasting at the altar of grace!
And in the verses following verse 9, the author to the Hebrews gives us at least three indicators of how we develop strong hearts in the Lord! He says first of all that we develop strong hearts when we continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise (v. !5). That is, when we wonder at the glory of God!
And the fact is, we cannot just say the words, hoping that they will somehow get us some merit with God. The praise must come from the heart! The author calls it “the fruit of lips that confess his name.” (verse 15),and one scholar has defined “fruit” as “something that grows naturally when sap is flowing within.” The point is this: Praise is that which grows naturally out of a strong heart that is rightly related to God! And you know that is the case!
But he also says that it is the fruit of “lips” -which to me indicates that this is real sounds and real words, not just thinking good thoughts about God, but talking about Him and His works and telling others how much He is worth to you!
In other words, if we are going to have strong hearts, then we must have hearts that praise God continually! Worship must be a very integral part of our lives, both individual worship and corporate worship! As one has said, “A heart of praise is sustained by the smile of God, not His frown. And Jesus is the smile of God.”
So “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” needs to be more than just a song we sing as we collect the offering, or some doxology we utter after a particular prayer in church.
It needs to be a song that arises from the heart of one who will exercise and seek to please God, thereby developing a strong heart!
By the way, in my present plan I have reduced my weight by 50 pounds and stayed off the prescription drugs, much to the chagrin (joy?) of my physician!
And I am singing more too!
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at email@example.com.