September 2, 2023
1 Timothy 4:7-8, New King James Version
"But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come."
Most of us can imagine what a typical physical workout might look like. We had first stretched a little to warm up the muscles we would be using in the rest of our session. Then there would be some type of cardiovascular or aerobic workout – repeated, nonstop contractions of a major muscle group over a period of fifteen to sixty minutes or even more that would elevate your heart rate to a level that is measurably above your resting heart rate. That might be followed by resistance exercises to strengthen the muscles. If you were in a gym, you had perhaps used some equipment designed for that purpose performing two sets of ten to fifteen minutes repetitions of about ten exercises working the major muscle groups. To end the workout, you wanted to again stretch out the muscles that were used. The workout might last an hour or an hour and a half.
How would working out spiritually or working out with God look? First Timothy 4:7-8 (NLT) says, “spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.” So, what is spiritual exercise? I believe it’s any belief or intentional behavior that helps us become more like Jesus, draw closer to Him, know Him better or that follows the principles or commandments of God.
I am grateful for the blessing of having a physical body, which is an amazing gift from our Heavenly Father. I read that our bodies have over six hundred muscles. Many muscles require exercise in order to be in condition to perform our daily activities. We could use all of our mental effort reading and learning about our muscles, but if we think this will make them stronger, we will be very disappointed. Our muscles grow only when we use them. When we get up and take action.
Spiritual gifts and our spiritual "muscles" behave in the same way. They also need to be exercised to grow. The spiritual gift of faith, for example, is not just a feeling or a mood; it is a principle of action that frequently appears in the scriptures linked to the verb exercise. Just as reading and learning about muscles is not enough to build muscle, reading and learning about faith without adding action is insufficient to build faith.
Just as we may get tired of working out and stop, our zest to obey and serve God fades, and suddenly we realize we are spiritually “flabby.” Although we long for daily victory, we lack the strength to maintain a faithful walk with God.
God’s Word says in Ephesians 6:10 (NLT), “Be strong in the Lord” and encourages us not to lose heart. Spiritual muscles can be retrained. We can live a transformed, victorious Holy Spirit filled with life day after day.
As in any discipline—dieting, exercise, study—success requires our best effort and consistency. As your spiritual muscle develops, the effort will gradually seem more “natural” to you and not so difficult. Why? Philippians 2:13 (NLT) says: “. . . it is God who works in you . . .” God will energize you to do what pleases Him.
Learning to follow the Spirit is like exercising a muscle. If we pray for revelation and then don’t act on the promptings we receive, it’s like thinking about lifting weights but not actually doing it. We not only fail to build muscle, but we lose what muscle we already have. It begins to atrophy from disuse. We wander back into the gym one day and wonder why we can’t lift as much as we could before. Maybe we get discouraged and stop exercising altogether.
The same goes for building our spiritual muscles: We have to be diligent in following the promptings we receive in order to stay strong and prevent the atrophy of our testimony. The more we listen and obey, the more revelation we will receive.
So, how do we get and stay spiritually strong?
Hearing God’s Word on a daily basis. Try listening to sermons, teachings, or devotionals. If you find a message that truly speaks to you or your situation, listen to it over and over again. It will build you up! The more you hear, the more you believe.
Reading God’s Word on a daily basis:
This is you fellowshipping with God and allowing Him to speak to you through the Scriptures while you read.
Next, after we read God’s Word, we need to study God’s Word:
Go through the verses in detail to discover the meaning and how it can apply to your life.
Meditate on God’s Word:
Pondering and thinking about what you’ve learned; mulling it over in your mind; "chewing" the meat.
Confessing God’s Word:
Speaking His Word/Promises out loud. But remember, you can’t speak it if you don’t know it.
Communicate with the Lord. Prayer is essential communication that enables us to receive spiritual strength. It is the basis of our personal relationship with God. If we speak with Him, He promises to direct our paths for good, even if He doesn’t always tell us exactly what to do.
Keep moving! The Spirit speaks in different ways to different people. Sometimes that still, small voice sounds a lot like your own mind. But we can’t progress if we remain stagnant—the Lord will direct our paths, but we have to start walking and keep walking in the direction He gives us. When we act on the thoughts that lead us to do something good, not only have we done His work, but we have also done something that will bring us closer to Him...making us stronger!