I have never been a "fitness fanatic" or overly health-conscious. Even though I have never been known to drink kale juice or run marathons, I am healthy and fairly active. I have played sports for many years, and I have gone through occasional periods of light weight training – emphasis on the “light” and “occasional.” Yet, I have exercised enough to know that the lessons from exercising can stretch far beyond our physical fitness.
Many physical fitness lessons apply directly to our spiritual fitness. I suspect this is why Paul often uses athletic analogies to illustrate the need for being spiritually fit.
Spiritual fitness is about having a deep, intimate relationship with God. It comes from practicing the spiritual disciplines of prayer, meditation on God's Word, obedience, worship, silence and solitude, fasting, and many others. Based on my experience with exercise, here are some basic steps to working out as they relate to our spiritual fitness:
This may seem simple, but the very first trip to the gym is one of the hardest steps to take. Overcoming spiritual inertia is always the toughest step. Our fallen nature wants to stay in the complacent rest of shallow living. To go deep, we have to start moving.
Going back the second day may be even harder than the first. You will probably be in pain, yet there will be no visible weight loss or muscle gain. The second day is when your body asks your brain if this is really worth it. In your spiritual development, you will not notice significant change in the beginning, and the temptation to quit will be high. As with all discipline, spiritual depth comes with repetition.
KEEP SHOWING UP
You must work hard enough to tax the strength and endurance of your muscles, or get your heart rate up and become somewhat winded. Little to no real effort will yield little to no results. Deep intimacy with God is the result of a disciplined habit of showing up, seeking God’s face, and letting Him shape us.
It is okay to begin by just lifting the bar ten times, but if you do that for six weeks straight, you will have wasted at least five of those weeks. In order to reach higher levels at the gym, you must reach, push, and force yourself to go further. Spiritual growth comes from stretching, searching for the deeper things of God, and spending more quality time with Him.
It's ok to miss a day here or there, but if you stop working out all together, your fitness level will quickly return to zero, your muscles will lose much of their strength and endurance, and you will be panting up a flight of stairs in no time. The discipline of spiritual depth must be a life-long pursuit. Temptation to quit never really goes away.
There is much more to learn from both physical and spiritual fitness, but these are the basics. We must decide to live a disciplined life of worship, study, prayer, giving, and serving. It is not enough to simply check the box and move on. We must continue pursuing the depths of God, being consistent to put forth the time and effort to grow and learn. We must guard against complacency and strive for greater levels of intimacy with God, continuing in our efforts, lest we grow spiritually old and cold.
It is great to be physically fit and healthy, but it is even greater to be spiritually so. I think now is a good time to “work out.” What about you?
by Jimmy Aycock