When I was forty, I realized I had to take charge of my health. I was severely overweight and in bad physical shape. If I wanted a long, healthy life, something had to change. After adjusting my eating and exercise habits, I am glad to report I am now in better physical shape approaching sixty than I was at forty. Throughout my fitness journey, I learned several parallels between getting physically fit and deepening my intimacy with God.
The road to physical fitness hasn’t been easy, and I still have a way to go, but my journey has taught me important lessons that apply to “spiritual conditioning.”
Consistency is Key. When I started, I realized it would take more than a couple trips to the gym to get in shape. In fact, the first time I tried, I almost passed out. With time, my body adjusted and I began making progress.
Consistency is key to our spiritual growth. Salvation is a free gift from God, but the path to spiritual maturity requires a disciplined effort over time. The practice of daily spiritual disciplines— prayer, studying Scripture, worship, etc. — is key to building “spiritual muscle.”
Push the Limits. If you do the same exercise with the same intensity day after day, you will stop making progress. In order to develop resistance and strength, I have had to push myself to the point of pain. As we say at the gym, “no pain, no gain.”
Quantitative Push – If an entire hour in prayer is too difficult, start with a few minutes, keep pushing and you will make progress. But beware, like working out, it is possible to lose pace and fall backwards if we lapse on our spiritual disciplines.
Qualitative Push – Spiritual discipline is more than just putting in the time. Over the years, I have learned to ask tougher questions and trust God's Word to provide the answers.
Seek Help. Recently, I noticed I wasn’t making progress in my workouts, so I sought the help of a personal trainer. He helps me by teaching new exercises and pushing me to train harder.
Even the most mature Christians need spiritual mentors. This may be a real, living person, or significant books that address your specific spiritual struggles.
Put in the Time. When I decided to exercise regularly, I made the decision to get up one hour earlier to go to the gym.
Most of us have full days, but there is no way around it. Spiritual disciplines require discipline and sacrifice. In order to grow deeper in our relationship with God, some less important things will have to go.
Getting in shape takes time and can be painful, but the payoff is worth it. I was in better shape at fifty years old than when I was forty, and my goal for sixty is to be in even better shape. Our relationship with God deserves more effort than our physical bodies. If our relationship with Him is the top priority of our life, we will have to put in the time and effort to grow deeper.