The Scriptures remind us: “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8; ESV)
Pictures of athletes, ads for physical fitness products, encouragements to maintain a healthy lifestyle — the world is full of constant reminders of the value of taking care of our bodies and the benefits of exercise. And while this is of some admitted value, how much more important is it to take care of our souls?
Athletes who wish to win contests, as well as those that simply want to be reasonably healthy and fit, recognize that such a goal is not to be met by sitting on the couch, wishing for the body to be muscled and ready. There is a regime that must be followed, discipline that must be maintained, a consistency required in behavior, diet and practice. The Bible mentions this in comparison to what God expects of Christians: “And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.” (1 Corinthians 9:25)
Olympic athletes and sports stars might win prizes, or obtain money for their deeds, but those prizes, no matter how grand are only temporary. Records that are broken by one are destined to one day be broken by another. And no matter how well you train, how often you exercise, or how closely you monitor your diet — your body still gets old, decrepit and eventually dies.
But there the prize for being spiritually fit is eternal, imperishable, and can never be taken from the one who gains it.
To this end, the conscientious individual should recognize the importance of being spiritually fit — of pursuing a standard of godliness that meets with Divine approval. If you would be spiritually fit, let us recommend a few basic “exercises” that you should add to your daily spiritual workout.
First – spend time in God’s word. The righteous man meditates on God’s word day and night and in so doing is blessed. (Psalms 1:2) God’s word teaches us about salvation, admonishes us when we falter, and strengthens us to do all the other activities God expects out of us. (cf. 2 Timothy 3:15-17) The individual who neglects the Word finds themselves spiritually weak. Those who crave the Word, and turn to it will find themselves growing stronger spiritually (cf. 1 Peter 2:2)
Second – spend much time in prayer. The Bible counsels us to pray without ceasing and to be vigilant in our prayers (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Colossians 4:2). In prayer, as we focus on God and His will for us, the child of God can find forgiveness (cf. 1 John 1:7-10), strength (cf. Ephesians 3:14-16, 20), wisdom (cf. James 1:5-8), and healing (cf. James 5:14-16). If we cease to pray we shall drift further and further from God.
Third – spend time singing spiritual songs. While singing does not get as much press as study and prayer, it should still plays a vital part in our daily spiritual regime. In singing hymns, we not only praise God in worship, but mentally reinforce spiritual lessons and ideas (cf. Colossians 3:16). Singing is a reflection of our joy (cf. James 5:13), and through singing, our joy and thanksgiving is made stronger. Those who refuse to sing to God are only weakening themselves.
Fourth – spend time with God’s people. Too many think they can be spiritually strong on their own, ignoring the wisdom of God who adds the saved to the church for a very good reason (cf. Acts 2:47). God designed the church as a way of encouraging and strengthening the saints (cf. Hebrews 10:24-25) Those that neglect assembling with others of like-precious faith, are going to find themselves more easily succumbing to sin (cf. Hebrews 3:12-14)
Fifth spend time actively doing good works. No athlete becomes a champion by accident. No Christian accidently stumbles into spiritual growth. Rather than waiting for opportunities to do good to arise, we should be actively seeking them out so that we might exercise our spiritual talents. (cf. Hebrews 5:14) Nobody gets to be either a star athlete or a star Christian without practice.
Finally, let us always keep in mind the goal. Let’s remember the words of the apostle Paul, who, at the end of his life, could write: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8; NKJV)
The church of Christ invites you to grow with us in worship and study, at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.