If you asked me, “Do you work-out?” I would say, “Yes. Usually on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”
However, in the past month, I’ve been away on two trips that’s affected my regular routine. Yesterday, I realized that it had been more than three weeks since I had worked-out. I had gotten out of the habit. And it was hard to get going again.
As I pushed myself to finish the Elliptical machine, I thought of the parallel spiritually and was reminded of Paul’s exhortation in I Timothy 4:7-8.
“….Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”
“Gymnasium” is derived from the Greek word “exercise.” And this figure is inherent in the passage. This was a place where Greek youths engaged in physical training to develop their bodies for athletic competition. While some benefit is derived from physical training, the apostle affirms that training for godly living provides a value that more useful and longer lasting.
Reflection on the greater need for spiritual training suggests there are four major areas in which we need to exercise ourselves.
(1) Our Mind. Intellectual training is vital to spiritual growth. We are challenged to consider the evidence for God, the Deity of Jesus, and the inspiration of the Bible. Mental exercise involves deliberation. Evaluation. Interpretation. Such thinking leads us to develop a spiritual value system that will allow us to “discern good and evil..”
(2) Our Emotions. Numerous warnings are given in the Bible regarding runaway emotions. Anger. Envy. Jealousy. Hatred. Bitterness. Wrath. Lusts. These are emotions that require self-discipline. We must train ourselves emotionally to control our feelings and exercise restraint.
(3) Our Conscience. God gave us a moral governor called conscience. It will commend us or condemn. But it depends how the conscience is taught and trained. Peter spoke of some who had their conscience “trained in covetous practices.” In fact, unless we exercise the conscience properly it can become seared, rendered incapable of rational judgement (1 Tim. 4:2)
(4) Our Will. Each of us is given the power to choose. The will or volition of a person can be a great benefit in decision-making if it is exercised spiritually. Such training will result in being morally resolute with godly discretion.
So, how do we engage in this kind of spiritual exercise? Here are simple four ways that will prove effective
(1) Getting into the Word. You cannot be correctly trained spiritually apart from the Bible. God’s Word produces faith. Increases knowledge. Provides purpose. Develops strength. Grows character. Supplies comfort. Offers hope. And equips us for life’s problems and Satan’s challenges.
(2) Daily prayer. Prayer brings us into communion with God. It is an exercise of humility, trust, dependance and reverence. No Christian can be spiritually healthy apart from prayer.
(3) Weekly worship. Not only do we experience fellowship with the Father in worship, but we enjoy association with fellow Believers. The exercise of worship makes love sweeter, faith deeper and hope brighter.
(4) Regular meditation. Dee Bowman was right when wrote, “Meditation is vital to spiritual development.” The exercise of reflection on divine matters causes our spiritual muscles to develop and grow stronger.
Four areas of exercise. Four ways to exercise. So, what’s the 9th essential? Make spiritual exercise a habit. Be regular. Consistent. Persistent.
Don’t get out of the habit of your spiritual exercise like I have with my physical exercise. As Ron Gilbert said, “We first form our habits. Then our habits form us.”
How are your exercise habits? And what are they forming?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman