Lesson 3: Celebrating Spiritual & Physical Fitness
The wise man said for everything there is a season. And if you live in Canada you know there are two seasons: winter and not-winter. For me the end of winter signals the start of netball season (think basketball for girls) and the start of five months of intense sporting activity that will undoubtedly force my body into top physical shape. By the middle of netball season I can loop my neighbourhood twice after work no problem, and run the court for an hour and still be ready to go. At the start of netball season, I can barely jog to the bottom of the street without passing out.In this week’s lesson we talk about physical and spiritual fitness, states of being that we all strive for, but which we all struggle with.
Sports were kind of a big deal to the Greeks, which was probably why in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 9:24-27) and again in his letter to the Philippians (Philip 3:12-14) Paul likens the Christian walk to a race. In a race there is a prize or a goal that every one strives for. Similarly in the Christian walk our aim is to grow in Christ, so that we can win the final prize of eternity with Him.
In order to compete well in a physical race, training, preparation and the “e” word (Exercise) are necessities. Yet consistency seems to be a problem for a lot of us when it comes to exercise. For me, as soon as the temperature drops below 10? C ( 50?F) it’s a wrap. The only exercise I will be doing after that is the walk from my front door to my car. The consequence however is that the fitness that I worked so hard to achieve over the warmer months, wanes away due to lack of consistent exercise.
Isn’t it kind of the same thing with our spiritual lives too? In order to develop the strong Christian characters that will take us through to the end, we need to exercise our faith. And this comes through challenging ourselves to study more; in taking chances based on our faith and in putting our complete trust in God. Too often though, we hit the winter season in our Christian athletics program. This winter season comes with distractions that shift the focus away from spiritual exercises. Distractions like exam periods, where we are too busy studying to have daily devotions; or work pressures that leave us too stretched to share an encouraging word with someone else; or even church activities that keep us so overscheduled we have no time to spend in meaningful prayer with God. Our winter season might even be a period of doubt, where we can’t believe in God’s promises to us because we can’t see the tangible proof, and so we stand paralyzed, unable to exercise our faith. Whatever our winter season may be, the longer we stay in it, the more we will decline in our spiritual fitness.
The good news however is that it doesn’t take a lot to get us going again in the right direction. Even a body that had not been exercised in a long while will begin to show improvements with small acts of physical activity. My creaky, lazy body may not be able to jog a mile my first week out. But I can walk around the block. And the next week I can walk two blocks, two times. In a month, if the exercise is consistent, six days a week for at least thirty minutes a day, I should be able to jog a couple miles without difficulty.
Our spiritual life is the same. Small steps like daily prayer and study and sharing our testimony with others help us develop the spiritual fitness we need to run Paul’s race.
God expects us to maintain our physical beings and our spiritual beings by exercising both. So what are you waiting on to get going?