April 25 I Monday
2 Samuel 21-22
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
Over this past year with the challenges brought about by COVID-19 guidelines, we have all experienced limits in our life, whether it is a limit on how many people can gather, how we can travel or how we interact with others. Yet, how could we use the limits that are placed in our life for the glory of God?
The late theologian and minister Eugene Peterson explores the limits in our lives through the concept of “askesis.” He elaborates, “Askesis is to spirituality what a training regimen is to an athlete…It is a spiritual equivalent to the old artistic idea that talent grows by its very confinement…Without confinement, without the intensification resulting from compression, there is no energy worth speaking of…The particular askesis that each person embraces varies, but without an askesis, a time and a place of confinement/concentration, there is no energy of spirit.”
Peterson continues in his explanation, “Askesis is not a New Testament word, but the early church used it to make analogies with athletic training and spiritual development. This use has carried askesis into our language as an aspect of prayer and spirituality. But the disciplined practice behind the word permeates every human activity that deals with creativity and strives toward excellence.”
We see wonderful illustrations everyday of askesis from nature. For example, coal, under incredible pressure, becomes a diamond, a thing of beauty. In the human spirit, we see the same thing. Holocaust survivor, neurologist and psychiatrist Victor Frankl wrote Man’s Search for Meaning about his time in the Nazi concentration camp, that blessed many people with hope. Both in the natural and human world, we see askesis. When limits are properly handled, they enrich our spirit, leading to beauty and worth.
The key is “properly handled” but many of us do not know how. This begs the question: how do we handle askesis or limits properly? The answer: only by the power, perspective and presence of Christ. The author of Hebrews tells us, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Only when we immerse ourselves in the reality that the Son of God endured askesis for us, do we realize the ability to face askesis in the form of discipline from God for the growth of righteousness within us. May we “consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that [we] will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3).
Prayer: Dear Lord God, thank You for enduring askesis on my behalf. Help me to endure the askesis You placed in my life for Your glory. In Jesus’s name, amen!