Over the years I have tried to maintain regular and consistent exercise. Before you think I am some kind of hard-body iron-woman, think again. Most assuredly, I do not fit in that category. Spending hours in the gym is not a priority. My simple routine consists of strength training, kick boxing (I like to think that is what I'm doing), and "crunchies" as my 88 yr. old fit Grandmother would say, while performing her 99th sit-up.
Every now and then my husband has probed me to try something new and different, insisting I need to change it up and work other muscles. Last year, I humored him for one day and one day only when he wanted me to do P90X with him. Then, I settled back into my comfortable method of squats and leg lifts. I have managed to not really push myself physically but rather just maintain my current strength and endurance. Sound familiar?
I doubt I am the only one who has experienced spiritual comfort in life, not wanting to be challenged. Doing just enough to maintain my current spiritual strength and endurance, I have neglected to push myself to train harder. The problem? Being comfortable spiritually leads to complacency, with the end result of stagnation. When we are spiritually stagnant we are not growing, but merely existing.
Several years ago we served in youth ministry in Washington. My mentor and Bible study teacher challenged me in my spiritual training. She encouraged us all to go beyond the normal, to reach for something deeper, to grasp and hunger for God's Truth in our lives. Her passion was genuine and contagious. Her life bore fruit of what she strained for.
Some remained content, others accepted her invitation to train themselves in God's Word. Living beyond the status quo and searching for depth ignited a fire in my soul that still burns fervently today. Truth is, I wanted this for myself, but had yet to be challenged to accept such an offer by one who was hungry herself and willing to teach and come along side us.
The pursuit of physical health and exercise leads me to question, What about our spiritual health and training? 1 Timothy 4: 7b tells us to train ourselves to be godly. Why? Verse 8 reveals that physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, for both the present life and the life to come.
The word for train means to discipline or exercise vigorously. Paul uses the metaphor of physical training to show us how we must submit our bodies to the rigors of discipline in order to train ourselves in godliness.
While physical training has some benefit for now, spiritual training benefits us now and later. Physical exercise is good, but it's temporal, meaning its benefits do not transcend time because this body is not going with us (thank the Lord!). Spiritual exercise is even better because it benefits this life and eternity. It brings about godliness which is beneficial for this life and the next. Spiritual training is a lasting investment.
God wants us to be spiritually fit so we can experience abundant life. Growing content spiritually and not wanting to go deeper or be challenged should be a warning sign to us. We grasp at straws not knowing how to function or respond when difficulty strikes. Before we know it we struggle with our boss, have conflict in our marriage, difficulty with our children, lack of motivation or purpose etc. When we hit the wall is when we tell ourselves something has to change. As mentioned above, contentment equals stagnation; a lack of growth. This is not what the Lord wants from us.
The godliness God desires for our lives does not present itself in a nice red package with a silver bow. Training ourselves spiritually requires commitment, effort and time. Many say, I want to read the Bible more, pray more, commit to Bible study or ___________. These things are not going to happen in our lives unless we discipline ourselves to practice these priorities. Simply put, if we don't do it, it's not a priority. If we are not training we are not growing.
Spiritual growth and training is a continual process. This process is called discipleship. A disciple is a doing learner. One who learns spiritual truth and then lives it out. When we train our hearts and minds to hunger for God and His Word we develop strong spiritual muscles. We begin to experience a relationship with God that is intimate and personal, beyond a spiritual checklist.
While physical fitness goals are noble, we should be more mindful of our spiritual training. I challenge you in 2011 to keep yourself spiritually fit. Be willing to submit yourself to the rigors of discipline in order to train yourself in godliness. Let's move beyond spiritual comfort, complacency, and contentment. Pursue God with a desire to know Him intimately and His Word passionately. The benefits my friends, are out of this world!
Will you join me for this 2011 spiritual fitness challenge?
Being too busy often negates time in the Word and prayer. Make time this week to evaluate your priorities and schedule. What can you let go of and say "no" to this year in order to discipline yourself spiritually?
How are you currently training yourself spiritually? What can you do differently? What will you do to go deeper and be challenged spiritually?
Are you in a season of contentment and stagnation? Why should spiritual training be a daily priority?
Do you want to experience a relationship with God that is intimate and personal, beyond a spiritual checklist? Get on your knees and start training today.
Heart Changing Word:
1 Corinthians 9:25-27 (NIV) "Do you know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."
2 Timothy 3:16 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
Hebrews 5:13-6:1a "Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity."
Copyright 2011 by Hester Christensen. All rights reserved.