We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening. 2 Corinthians 12:19
Strengthening is like going to the gym. When we lift weights at the gym we are strengthening our physical muscles. Here Paul speaks about strengthening our spiritual muscles.
Several times in the book of Acts we read statements like, “He (Paul) went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:41). “But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort” (1 Corinthians 14:3). “All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church” (1 Corinthians 14:26). And in the above passage, Paul is explaining that he isn’t speaking for his own benefit but for theirs. Paul wants them to be strong in their faith.
We are strengthened when we engage in spiritual practices, and like going to the gym there is variety. Sometimes there’s a need to focus on a particular practice for a season. Other times we just need to be consistent. Other times we may need to look at fresh ways to connect with God and consider a spiritual practice that we’ve never tried before.
Richard Foster lists 12 spiritual practices in his book, The Celebration of Discipline, which are: meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration. Others include sharing in community, sacred meals, observing the Sabbath and liturgy.
The practice that Paul focuses on here is the strengthening that comes from listening to God’s word being proclaimed. It encourages us and builds us up in the faith. Like going to the gym we don’t always see immediate results, it’s a process. Yet in time, as we integrate God’s word into our lives, we can expect to see growth.