As we begin a new year and a new decade, many have made renewed commitments to work on their physical fitness through diet and exercise plans. And most likely, some of them have already broken their New Year’s resolutions! It is amazing how many are very concerned about their physical well being, and religiously spend time at fitness centers to stay in shape, yet how few are concerned about something far more important—their spiritual fitness. It is true that we are to be good “stewards” of the bodies that God gave us, especially since they are the “temple of the Holy Spirit” and we are told by the Apostle Paul: “glorify God in your body” (I Cor. 6:19,20). We only have a ministry for God as long as we have a body, so we need to do our part to keep up that body. Listed among the fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5:22,23 is “self control” which includes self-discipline and that affects not only our spiritual and moral life, but our physical appetites. A growing Christian, when under the Holy Spirit’s control, will demonstrate discipline in all areas of his/her life.
Paul, in writing to his understudy, Timothy, said: “But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness, for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (I Tim. 4:7,8). Note that Paul didn’t say that “bodily discipline” (training/exercise) was of no profit, but of “little profit” compared with “discipline for the purpose of godliness” (spiritual fitness). We are bombarded these days with diet plans, exercise programs, health foods, beauty aids, etc.—all aimed at improving our lives or lifestyles. These may profit a “little” and should not be ignored, but we must never allow a preoccupation with physical things to negate our true priority of “discipline for the purpose of godliness.” We need to keep in mind that “our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is (should be) renewed day by day” (II Cor. 4:17). I admire those who have the discipline to get up early to work out regularly at a fitness center before they go to work. Yet how much more profitable to have the discipline to meet with the Lord and regularly spend time in His Word. I don’t believe we can “stay in shape” spiritually unless we are regularly spending time talking with and listening to the Lord, and reading and studying and meditating on and memorizing His Word. Paul told Timothy to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth,” for “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” ( Tim. 2:15; 3:16,17).
“Like newborn babes, (we should) long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (I Pet. 2:2). “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice, have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about Christ, let us press on to maturity…” (Heb. 5:14; 6:1). We are to be “nourished on the words of the faith and of sound doctrine” (I Tim. 4:6).
A proper diet is essential to maintain physical well being. Our spiritual diet—being nourished on a regular basis by the Word of God—is essential for our spiritual well being. God’s Word is an essential ingredient if we are to grow spiritually. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Ro. 10:17). In addition to a proper diet, exercise is also necessary if we are to be “fit” both physically and spiritually. We need to put into practice what we are learning from God’s Word. James wrote: “But prove yourselves doers of the word and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was” (James. 1:22-24). God gave us the Bible not to satisfy our curiosity but to transform our lives.
We also get “exercise” when we share with others what we have learned in Scripture and what God is doing in our lives. But, if we are not spending time in the Word and in prayer, we will probably not be excited about the Lord and His Word and likely are not sharing with anyone. What we are “full of” is what will “spill over” when we are bumped! If we are full of God’s Word, that will be what comes forth. If we are full of self and our expectations and what we consider “our rights,” then we will experience anger and resentment and disillusionment.
Of course, cleanliness is also important for our physical and spiritual health. The Psalmist gives us good advice: “How can a young man (or an older person!) keep his way pure? By living according to Your Word… I have hidden Your Word in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Psa. 119:9,11). Either sin will keep us from the Word or the Word will keep us from sin!
I am amazed at how people have time to “hit the gym” or spend time on social media and yet don’t have time to spend with the Lord and in His Word. No wonder our society is struggling! It’s time to “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Mt. 6:33). We all have the time. It is a matter of our priorities. If we are loving God with all our heart, we will make time to get spiritually fit. What can you do this year to improve your spiritual well being? How about starting today.
“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge (from God’s Word) and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:9-11).