My daughter started running about a month ago. Three minutes walking/two minutes running during the first week, two minutes of each during the second week, and so on…
She wasn’t a happy runner. In fact she hated the idea at first. But during that first week I told her that I was certain of one thing–after a while she’d not only enjoy her workouts, she’d look forward to them.
Fast forward a month and I have a runner in the house. Last night she bought workout clothes and today she told me that she doesn’t like the idea of missing a day. If she could be on the treadmill 24/7 she would.
Isn’t it funny how our body reacts to exercise?
In much the same way, so does our flesh. It’s not always easy to control our temper, hold our tongue, or exercise patience but the more that we exercise that muscle, the easier it gets.
This morning I woke up with three things on my mind: conforming, transforming, and virtue. No sooner did I open my eyes and I was reaching for a pen.
What is it, Lord? I wondered… How do these all fit together, and what is Your message for me?
Looking to the Bible we see two women referred to as “virtuous:” one is Ruth and the other is the Proverbs 31 woman. Certainly there are many other women in the Bible who lived a virtuous life, but these two are interesting because they show a spectrum of virtue in action that encompasses both the big and the small.
Ruth sacrificed much when she gave up her people to follow Naomi, and the P31 woman made sacrificial choices throughout the day as she conformed to those things that were good.
I like Matthew Henry’s wise commentary on the word “virtue,” found in Proverbs 31: A virtuous woman—a woman of strength (so the word is), though the weaker vessel, yet made strong by wisdom and grace, and the fear of God: it is the same word that is used in the character of good judges (Ex. 18:21 ), that they are able men, men qualified for the business to which they are called, men of truth, fearing God. So it follows, A virtuous woman is a woman of spirit, who has the command of her own spirit and knows how to manage other people’s, one that is pious and industrious, and a help meet for a man. In opposition to this strength, we read of the weakness of the heart of an imperious whorish woman, Eze. 16:30 . A virtuous woman is a woman of resolution, who, having espoused good principles, is firm and steady to them, and will not be frightened with winds and clouds from any part of her duty.
When I conform my will, my desires, and passion for the good of my family I conform myself to the will of God.
I say “good” here because there’s a difference between spoiling your children and conforming your life so that they might flourish both physically and spiritually.
There’s a difference between being a doormat and conforming to a life that draws your husband closer to the Lord and strengthens your marriage.
Virtue is all about our behavior. It’s an act of conforming our lives to our principles which is not always easy, but always rewarding.
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 1:5-8
We all battle against the flesh in one way or another. If you’re yelling at your kids, fighting with your husband, over eating, or abusing internet time, take a mental note of those areas that you need to strengthen, and start fighting against the flesh.
Not sure where to start? Here are five ways to exercise virtue:
1. Determine which area of your life that you want to see changed. Mark it down in a notebook to reinforce the fact that you’re working on this area of your life. I’d suggest starting with a few areas at a time.
2. Get down on your knees and pray. Not only will you be confessing this area to the Lord (which is a necessary part of change) you’ll be seeking His help in your journey. Ask Him for wisdom. Ask Him for endurance. And ask Him for patience. You have a life coach that’s only a prayer away–how cool is that?!
3. Exercise this area of your life. Put in the effort to make this happen. We’re called to be a “living sacrifice” that is pleasing to God. That means we must be willing to give up our feel-good desires so that we can open ourselves to His will.
Ruth gave up everything she had to follow Naomi. Her virtue was evident through a sacrificial life. The Proverbs 31 Woman made sacrificial choices throughout the day to live beyond herself. She took care of her family and reached out to people. She put in the necessary effort to live a virtuous life.
4. Read the Bible. Walk toward the Spirit and you’re walking away from this world. The Bible tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. If you aren’t reading the Bible on a regular basis, I encourage you to do this. There’s nothing that curbs our appetite for this world quite like scripture does.
Another important reason to be in the word is that, we are stronger when we’re equipped with wisdom. Remember that Jesus used scripture to fight against temptation, and so can we!
5. Offer yourself some grace. Paul understood our struggle against the flesh when in Romans chapter 7 he wrote:
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. – Romans 7:18.
We aren’t perfect, but those who walk in the spirit are being perfected by faith. It’s by the grace of God that we’re saved through faith in Jesus Christ. So while I’m not perfect, I can rest in the knowledge that my Redeemer is!
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. – Romans 12:1-2
You are loved by an almighty God,
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