Just as fitness strengthens our body, spiritual fitness strengthens our soul. Millions of people today help their bodies lose weight, improve flexibility, and improve cardio-vascular health through regular exercise. At times, this exercise is prescribed by their doctor to minimize the effects of disease, such as diabetes. People train in local gymns, but also in those with state and national branches. Drive around and you’ll see LA Fitness, 24-hour Fitness, Planet Fitness, and Peak Performance.
For seven years, through high school and college, I ran cross-country and track. Several months before our first competitive meet, we’d begin practice with each other, fulfilling the assignments of our coaches: jumping jacks, stretching to touch our toes, then stretching to reach the sky. Each exercise to stretch and strengthen one set of muscles necessitated another to strengthen the opposite set of muscles. Then, light jogging at first, then longer distances—and longer and faster. Each run tested our capacity. Eventually, our training helped us extend our capacity beyond what we thought possible. We knew our limits, dictated to us by our pain, shortness of breath, and threat of collapse. But together we learned to push beyond our limits and our pain. Eventually we bettered our best times and could defeat our opponents in competition.
The remnant of such training as a teen-ager continues today. I walk aggressively (I’ve chosen to avoid running at my age), for ½ hour, up a steep hill, for as many days in the week as possible. I want to keep my body healthy. It isn’t possible to stop growing older, but we can slow the process. People comment to me about how young I look, and these compliments motivate me to keep up my exercise regimen. For more information on Steps to Physical Fitness, read https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/fitness/art-20048269. Just as physical fitness strengthens our body, spiritual fitness strengthens our soul.
But just as our body needs regular exercise for physical fitness, we also need spiritual exercise to improve our spiritual fitness. Just as we must stretch our limits to build up physical stamina, we need to stretch our spirits through spiritual exercise. We need to practice spiritual fitness to help us deal with the challenges of life: financial stresses, relationship repair, and in my present circumstances, downsizing. In earlier blogs, I discussed the physical benefits of spiritual fitness. [https://www.gordongrose.com/health-benefits-of-spirituality-i/ https://www.gordongrose.com/health-benefits-of-spirituality-ii/]. Just as physical fitness strengthens our body, spiritual fitness strengthens our soul.
In the same way that I need to more-or-less force myself to do something unpleasant (get out and walk in the cold weather), so also I have to force myself to study Scripture each day. Don’t misunderstand, I love studying Scripture. But with a full day and week, I, like most people, must fight the temptation to delay or avoid my daily meeting with God. When I walk, I feel better; I sleep better. When I read Scripture, I feel better also, although differently. I know I have put God first in my day. At the moment, I’m studying the Apostle Paul’s defense of himself and of his ministry in II Corinthians 5:11-21. The climax is Paul’s words in v. 20: “We are, therefore, Christ’s ambassador.”
I Am Christ’s Ambassador
I’ve been working with this passage for several months. First I record the results of my study on a Word document, date it, and save it. But then I also invite the Scripture to challenge me. I need always to ask myself: “What difference does this passage make in my life today?” So, how can I best represent Christ today in my world of relationships?
In my availability today to serve our chronically ill son, when he calls me to clean up water the plumber spilled in his garage, how can I represent Christ? In mopping up the garage (where the plumber miscalculated and opened a 40-gallon water tank by mistake), how do I represent Christ to my son (who is a Christian), and to the plumber (who is not)? Because the Apostle Paul reminded me that “I am Christ’s ambassador,” I serve our son gladly, sopping up water with paper towels, squeezing the excess out on the lawn, and reusing them to sop up more water. Without complaint. That leaves him and the plumber free to make the needed changes in the water filtration system.
How’s Your Spiritual Fitness?
How about your fitness. Do you exercise? Do you tax your body regularly to bring up your heart rate, breathe more deeply, sleep better, and keep yourself healthy? I hope you do. Just as physical fitness strengthens our body, spiritual fitness strengthens our soul. But about your spiritual needs. I don’t know what place you’ve allowed God in your life, but If He is real to you, you can make him more real by a daily time devoted to reading and applying the Scriptures to your life.
You may already read a devotional book regularly, but as good as some of them are (I can think of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, for example), the Scripture is better. Don’t neglect the best means God has of getting your attention for the day. Don’t pick random passages; instead, read a whole book, a little each day. Or study the life of a great man or woman of God. Keep a journal, record your observations, specific application to your life, and how you will act differently because of what you’ve studied.
My wife and I are going through a difficult time, not with each other, but with forces, events, and people we cannot control. “Genesis encourages me,” she said. “All through Abraham’s life and the lives of his children and grandchildren, people had to wait.” God doesn’t act when we want; but He does act. That was the lesson she learned through her personal study of a great, albeit flawed, person’s life. She found encouragement for herself and for me about this stressful time in our lives though a detailed application of Scripture to her life. Just as physical fitness strengthens our body, spiritual fitness strengthens our soul. Start your practice of spiritual fitness today.
[Credits: Photo: https://istock.com. Artist: Kristijan Sekulic, aka skynesher]