A retired couple decided that they should walk two miles a day to stay in shape. They chose to walk a mile out on a lonely country road so they would have no choice but to walk back.
At the one-mile mark on their first venture, the man asked his wife, “Do you think you can make it back all right, or are you too tired?”
“Oh, no,” she said. “I’m not tired. I can make it fine.”
“Good,” he replied. “I’ll wait here. You go back, get the car and come get me.”
Statistics show that 87% of Americans who own running shoes don’t run. That reminds me of the fellow that quipped, “When I feel the desire to exercise, I lie down until it goes away.”
The benefits of exercise for optimum health are well documented. Yet, through laziness, busyness, or just plain neglect most of us fail to exercise as much as we ought to. The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates offers excellent advice: “We can do nothing without the body; let us always take care that it is in the best condition to sustain us.”
However, there is another kind of exercise that we ought to be even more concerned about–spiritual exercise.
In Paul’s letter to the young preacher Timothy he wrote, “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” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
“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 completion. It carries the idea of vigorous activity.
It’s worth noting that the apostle is not presenting an either-or choice. There is some benefit derived from physical training. As good stewards, we ought to take care of the body. A healthy diet, the right amount of sleep and regular exercise provides us with the strength to serve God’s purpose. However, the apostle affirms that training for godly living renders a value more useful and longer lasting.
Godliness has to do with piety, reverence, and respect for God. Of the 15 times the word is used in the New Testament, 9 times it is found in the letters to Timothy. The apostle obviously was trying to make a point to this young man.
Just like physical exercise strengthens the body, spiritual exercise strengthens the soul. Godliness is not an accident. It’s a decision we make that occurs through mental and emotional desire, discipline and daily dedication.
Exercising ourselves unto godliness must begin and end with getting into God’s 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.
Coupled with Bible study we need times of regular mediation. Dee Bowman correctly observed, “Meditation is vital to spiritual development.” The exercise of reflection on divine matters causes our spiritual muscles to develop and grow stronger. Joseph Addison was right, “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”
In addition, daily prayer and weekly worship brings us into communion with God and aids in exercising our faith, trust and dependence on Him. Plus we need fellowship with other believers to encourage us to continue. Through such regular training, the Hebrew writer says that “our senses are exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb 5:14).
Find an exercise routine that works for you. Not only physically, but more importantly, spiritually. Both your body and your soul will be better for it.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman