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“ENDURING FAITH: Breathing” – Oct 6

October 6, 2013

“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.””  Hebrews 10:36-38

Walking in the Spirit is not a sprint. 

It is a marathon and we need endurance for a marathon.

This is the third post exploring three principles from physical endurance that seem analogous to our spiritual endurance.  The pervious posts were ENDURING FAITH: The Heart and ENDURING FAITH: Fuel.  Today, I want to think about how proper breathing helps us to endure.

 BREATHING

The Cold SmokeBreathing is an essential function of life.  Our lungs fill with air without a conscience thought.  Even while asleep our need of oxygen is satisfied.  In fact, we are incapable of not breathing.  Just attempt to hold your breath for an extended period and you will discover your inherent requirement to breathe.

We all become aware of this essential function when we don’t get enough of it.  A nasty head cold can transform us into the most uncouth of mouth breathers when plugged sinuses force our bodies to seek an alternate air passage.  A prolonged dive into the depths will send us scrabbling to the water’s surface.  An extended note can necessitate a unmelodic gasp prior to the next verse.  An asthma attack jars us to the scary reminder of our reliance upon every breath.

Tired RunnerAs our body’s demand for oxygen increases, proper breathing becomes even more importance.  I have spent my share of time bent over in submission to my lungs’ demand for appeasement.  I have lain on the couch after a long bike ride or run, panting in short, shallow breaths trying to hold off a coughing fit.

Our lungs respond to an activity’s demand for oxygen.  The ability to continue mile after mile relies upon the ability of our lungs to keep pace with that oxygen demand.  We have no oxygen reserves so every breath becomes important as we continue in an endurance event.

Sufficient breathing facilitates endurance.

Recently, I listened to a podcast by Ben Greenfield entitled “How to Breathe the Right Way When You’re Working-out”.  Ben interviewed Dr. John Douillard, who advocates deep nasal breathing while working out.

Dr. Douillard stresses that deep nasal breathing has two primary benefits.  Those deep breaths, particularly through the nose, fills the outer lobes of the lungs, which increases the amount of oxygen pulled into the body and the volume of waste, carbon dioxide, removed in the exhale.

meditationThe other benefit comes when deep breaths expand the lungs.  This stimulates the nerves at the bottom of the diaphragm, which relax the body.  It is why most mediation techniques involve deep breathing.  Dr. Douillard asserts that this sort of deep breathing, through the nose, is the best way for an athlete to get into the Zone.

The Zone is that perfect balance between speed and comfort when you feel like you can just keep going forever.  We flow in the Zone when we have the peaceful feeling of being loose and relaxed and we can stop worrying about technique and form.

Endurance requires that relaxed and comfortable state of the Zone. 

I have been working on my breathing while cycling and running because unnecessary tension consumes energy.  I think that the deep nasal breath does work.  I have found that I am more relaxed and comfortable when I focus on really moving some air deep into my lungs.  However, it is hard.  I have to concentrate on my breathing.  I have to be intentional.  My mind will drift and suddenly I will realize that I am once again not breathing properly.  It takes more work to expand my diaphragm to take deep breaths, rather than the short gasps that I am inclined to do when I start to fatigue.  My natural response is to take quick, shallow breaths through my mouth.  That does the job, since it keeps me from passing out, but I am giving up all the benefits of deep breathing by not being intentional.  Proper breathing is just another skill that has to be developed until it becomes second nature.

There are a lot of Christians who have never learned to spiritually breathe.

Many Christians labor along the narrow path as if they are out of breath and energy.  There are so many uptight inhabitants of pews who struggle under the cares of this world.  The child of God who is loose and comfortable, abounding in joy through all circumstances seems to be the exception.

Worried Man with Debt and BillsAll one has to do is listen and we will discover that worry is the favorite pastime of many.  Conversations abound in our anxiety about our future, spouse, kids, parents, job, retirement, the weather, crime, looking dumb, what someone thinks, and on and on.  There are some who seem to revel in worry.  They use it as a description of their personality, “I am just a worrier”.  They delight in anxiety to the point that they manufacture things to worry about.  That is not hard to do.

The seeds for anxiety are plentiful in this world. 

However, we rarely consider the impact of worrying upon the endurance of our faith.  Worry throws the wet blanket of darkness over the joy of our salvation.  Often, depression is resuscitated by the mouth-to-mouth of anxiety.

Worry consumes spiritual strength because it is unbelief in disguise.

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.  (Luke 12:22-23)

But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown in to the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! (Luke 12:28)

The opposite of faith is unbelief.  When our actions reveal that we are motivated by little faith, then we know that our hearts are a harbor for unbelief.  We cannot run the good race when we are delighting in the unbelief of worry.

Spiritual breathing cures the asphyxiation of a worrying soul.

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:5-7)

The Sick Man by Vasili Maximov (1881), portray...Spiritual breathing happens when we come before our Father in prayer and supplication, and with a thankful heart make our requests be known to Him.  Praying fills our faith with the reality of God’s promises and eliminates the destructive waste of anxiety.  Short little gasps of prayer are better than nothing but they are not as effective as deep, meditative prayer.

We receive the peace of God when we come to him in prayer.  It is the peace of God that enables us to live a peaceful life.  It is the peace of God that enables us to abound in joy through all circumstances.

Living in the peace of God is key to enduring faith.

We know that in this world we are going to have troubles and suffering.  We all will have to battle with the anxiety that those circumstances will create.  Therefore, we need to be intentional when we feel tension of anxiety.  It is at those times when we need to concentrate on breathing deeply on the promises of God.

We need to know what God has promised to his children.  We need to have a list of the promises that address our favorite worries.  And then, we need to come to our heavenly Father in prayer through faith.

Enduring faith knows what it believes.
Enduring faith knows what we have been promised.
Enduring faith believes that God will be faithful to keep His promises.

Spiritual breathing keeps us in the spiritual zone where we are relaxed in all circumstance and can just keep walking in the Spirit forever.  The peace that passes all understanding flows from the prayers of enduring faith to our faithful and loving Father.

However, we have to be intentional.  My mind will easily drift from God’s promises and suddenly I will realize that I am once again not really spending time in meaningful prayer.  It takes work to find time to pray.  It takes effort to focus my mind in prayer, rather than the short gasps that I am inclined to do when I start to get anxious.  My natural response is to make quick, short, shout-outs to God in my desperation.  That is good, since it keeps me from completely succumbing, but I am giving up all the benefits of deep spiritual breathing by not being intentional.

Proper spiritual breathing is just another spiritual discipline that has to be developed until it becomes second nature but it is so important for the endurance of our faith.

So, let’s breath deeply.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the peace that passes all of my understanding.  Thank you for enabling me to know joy in joyless circumstances.  Thank you for listening to my prayers.  Thank you for being faithful to all that you have promised me.  Forgive me for acting in unbelief by worrying about the cares of this world.  Lord, you know that I want live by faith.  You know that I want to breathe deeply in You.  Lord, help me in my unbelief.  Help be to live by faith.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

14 comments

  1. Reblogged this on The God I serve.


  2. Hey JD… thanks for stopping by My Journey again and for the like 🙂
    I’m greatly humbled and appreciative of the encouragement offered . . .

    I love the timing of your post . . . so greatly encouraged me to remember to be intentional with my spiritual breathing…

    blessings
    Bev


  3. Thank you once again JD. This series of posts really spoke to me. As a stroke-disabled person my constant struggle is not for athleticism but to approach normal walking. God gave me a persistence and determination that I never had before my stroke, but I never thought to apply it to my spiritual life. Your inspiration will help me to get stronger there too.


  4. Great post. I start every day with “Our Daily Bread” and prayer (my spiritual breathing) before I begin my physical breathing.


    • Hey Ben – I am a big fan of your writing and podcasts. You have been very helpful in my training. Keep up the good work. It is great to hear that we start our days in the same manner.
      God Bless!
      JD


  5. Love this! Thanks for the encouragement! I am currently in a situation where I need to believe God and rid myself of doubt and fear. So thank you! I am breathing in His promises!


    • Hey Kate – I am so very glad that this post was timely and an encouragement. I pray that our Lord will continue to lift you up in your present situation.
      God Bless!
      JD


  6. Powerful insights presented exceedingly well. Next step? Taking every breath captive for His Glory! Many thanks!


    • Amen! All the the Glory of our wonderful Lord and Savior.
      God Bless!
      JD


  7. I totally agree that we must be intentional! Like breathing the right way, it is developing a habit. You have to be intentional in taking the time to pray. We have to be intentional in how we “walk” in our Christian lives. Temptation for worry is just right around the corner and when we let it, it can sabotage our lives. Thank you for this message!


    • Amen; thanks for you comments.
      God Bless!
      JD


  8. “Spiritual breathing cures the asphyxiation of a worrying soul.” What a great statement! May we all take time and take deep spiritual breaths and fill our lives with the Spirit of God as he works through our prayers.


  9. Thanks for quoting Luke 12:28; it has been running through my mind today, and reading it here seemed as if it was a doubly emphatic message! I really needed the encouragement to steadfastly ENDURE!


    • Julia – I am so thankful that this post was timely and could be an encouragement to you.
      God Bless!
      JD



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