Spiritual Exercise April 3, 2023

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Medical doctors and health professionals are consistently reminding us to give attention to “diet and exercise.” Henry Drummond believed that every thing we see in the natural world is simply a shadow of some spiritual reality. It is interesting to me that these two principles of diet (proper intake) and exercise (regular working out) are present in the daily spiritual disciplines of the healthy Christian.

Paul challenged Timothy to be a minister “nourished up in the words of faith and good doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:6). Find strength from feeding on the Word! Then immediately he wrote, “But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”

In other words, that which is taken in through the Word of God must be worked out in the life of the believer. Truth must be applied and obeyed. Any muscle that is not used will eventually atrophy. Faith is such a muscle, and a faith that is not being exercised is a faith that is weakening. 

Exercise brings endurance, balance, strength, and flexibility. In the Christian life, spiritual exercise helps the believer to stay healthy and strong. But it is also important that exercise be done the right way. Consider these practical parallels. Proper exercise…

  1. Requires reach – Exercise stretches you. And, the older I get, the more those stretches mean! Obedience will cause us to get out of our comfort zone but that is where real profit comes.
  2. Requires repetition – Many years ago when I was serving as a youth director I worked out one day with one of the teenage boys in our youth group. This young man was quite a weight lifter and I really wanted to impress him with my ability. As I struggled under the weight of way too many pounds, my young friend reminded me of an important truth: strength is not built by lifting a lot of weight occasionally but through repetition. It’s all about the reps! Too many believers want to exercise their spiritual muscles on Sunday but fail to use what they have been given every other day. The discipline of repetition brings the benefit.
  3. Requires resistance – Think of this: the enemy, the difficulty, is actually one of the means of building strength. The flesh, the world system, the Devil, bad circumstances, and many other things will conspire to stop you. But as you press through that adversity you gain even more strength. Every time you resist the resistance you get stronger!
  4. Requires rest – Periods of rest are vital for good health. In the spiritual realm, this does not mean we take a break from the Word or from following Christ! Rather, the believer must constantly remember that mere activity and doing is not the goal. We must rest in the Lord and His enabling. At a time of exhaustion in the work of the Lord, Missionary Hudson Taylor wrote, “When I cannot read, when I cannot think, when I cannot even pray, I can trust.” It is not reading more and trying harder that makes a mature Christian; it is a deeper dependence on the strength that Christ alone gives. 
  5. Requires replenishment – And so we come full circle back to diet! Most of us could go a few days without food for our bodies, but there will never be a day that we do not need to feed our soul. The more you seek to move forward for the Lord and the greater steps of faith you are called upon to take, the more you will need the sustenance that comes through private devotions and personal worship.

Over and over we are reminded that it is the basics. Simple things make a difference. There is no shortcut to a healthy soul and no substitute for daily spiritual disciplines.

We love to quote “bodily exercise profiteth little” as an excuse for not exercising our bodies. (A poor one I might add!) But the emphasis of Scripture is on the eternal profit of godliness, and godliness does not come without a price. If you want the product, you must be willing to follow the process.

Get in the Word today and then live out the truth God shows you. It’s time for some spiritual exercise…

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