Tag Archives: spiritual endurance

Spiritually Fit and Ready to Go!

So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives.  Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing.  You didn’t know any better then; you do now.  1 Pet. 1:13-14 (The Message)

If you have accepted responsibility for your spiritual fitness and established intentional strategies that have led you to a richer relationship with the Lord, the next question is “Where do I go from here?”  After reaching a personal goal, physical or spiritual, the next difficult task is in maintaining the new behavior.  How do you continue to do the “right thing”?  The Apostle Peter’s message is both timely and fitting for believer’s who desire to maintain their spiritual fitness in spite of living in the 21st century.

This epistle was addressed to believers throughout Asia Minor (Modern Turkey).  Hostility and suspicion were mounting against Christians.  These believers’ presence was becoming an offense to the pagan world with their life-styles and talk of “another Kingdom”. The stage was being set for greater persecution and even martyrdom in the near future.  Peter encourages these believers to maintain obedience to God and resist the temptation to return to their previous way of living (1 Pet. 1:13-14).  This is still God’s directive to believers today.

As believers become more “spiritually fit”—conformed to the image of Christ—they will demonstrate behavior that puts them in harm’s way with the world, especially as they resist conformity to postmodern thinking (Rom. 12:1).  They will be called “narrow–minded” and “bigoted” because believers in Christ look very different from the rest of the world.   So how are believers, even those who are spiritually fit, expected to maintain their walk of faith?

Align their purpose with God.  Believers are to walk in assurance that their life has changed and that they are following the path God has established for them from the foundations of the world (Ep. 2:10).  There are many good things believers can do with their life, but the “best things” are those lived in humble submission to the will of God.

Walk in their identity in Christ.  As joint heirs with Christ, believers share not only in His purpose, but they also share in His privilege and power.  The believer’s spiritual fitness includes the ability to successfully resist old temptations and tendencies that were part of their “old nature” before becoming one with Christ (Col. 3:1-4).

Manage their expectations of the world.  The Apostle Peter encouraged his readers to prepare their minds for action, discipline themselves, and set all their hope on the grace of Jesus Christ.  Believers know that Jesus has overcome the world, God is still on His throne managing the events of the world including His Church, and our inheritance awaits us in eternity future.

Believers, whether living in the 1st or 21st century, are to live as “lights shining in the world among a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:15).    Spiritually fit and ready to go, we move forward in newness of life (Rom. 6:4), “proclaiming the mighty acts of Him who called us out of the darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet.2:9).

Strategies for Spiritual Fitness

“Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it.”  1 Cor. 9:24 (NRSV)

In the beginning of this series, I shared that I have been using an activity tracker to improve my overall physical fitness.  The results I am achieving with the tracker are evidence that it was the perfect addition to my strategy for improving my personal health and wellness.  Similarly, I am confident that believers who develop intentional strategies for spiritual fitness will be able to successfully navigate in the 21st century.

My Fitbit monitors several indicators of good health.  They include number of steps made in a day, heart rate, number of steps climbed, sleep time, and finally, water and food consumed.  If one looks at these indicators individually, they might question the benefit to be gained from their tracking.  However, when viewed collectively, this monitoring provides useful information on vital human body systems that work cooperatively to keep us “physically” fit.  These include our nervous system (sleep), our muscular system (steps climbed), our cardiovascular system (heart rate), our respiratory system (steps taken), and our digestive system (water and food).

Our inner man is a “spiritual system” designed by God (Gen. 2:7).  It consists of not only the believer’s spirit or eternal nature but it also is comprised of the soul—the mind, the will, and the emotions; these work cooperatively, much like our human body system, to accomplish God’s purpose (2 Tim. 1:9).

Once we become believers, our spirit becomes one with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17).  Agreement, however, between the spirit and the soul will not happen “on its own” (Rom. 7:18-20) but requires the development of intentional strategies that will combat forces—Satan, the world, and the flesh—that move believers away from God.  Is your spiritual system working to accomplish God’s purpose in your life?  Spiritual fitness works to insures that these spiritual systems, the spirit and the soul, are working cooperatively (1 Cor. 9:24-27).

Like physical fitness, spiritual fitness requires not only a change in “habits and routines” but it also requires a change in “mindset”.   With the help of my Fitbit, I am encouraged when I see progress in areas that support good health, like an increase in the number of steps I make in a day.  Similarly, the Holy Spirit directs, instructs, and corrects believers so they stay on the “path of righteousness” (Prov. 12:28) while glorifying God (John 16:13-14).   What feedback is the Holy Spirit giving you on your habits, routines, and mindset?  Like “eating clean” leads to a healthier physical body, spiritual fitness leads to a God-honoring, Christ-centered life (Matt. 5:16).

The believer’s responsibility in this “spiritual fitness” process is to strengthen their personal relationship with God.  This includes spending time with Him studying the Bible, in prayer and meditation, and in individual worship, just to name a few.  Time spent with the Lord will become periods of renewal and growth as God provides the believer “real time” feedback on their spiritual progress.  How much effort and time are you devoting to your personal relationship with God?  When spiritual fitness habits are faithfully practiced by the believer, their thoughts, behaviors and ultimately, their life style will reflect the image of Christ to the glory of God (Phil. 2:9-11).

God’s Guide to Spiritual Fitness

For whom He (God) foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son,

that He (Jesus) might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Romans 8:29 (NKJV)

This week we will continue our teaching on spiritual fitness by describing what it looks like in the believer’s life.

Examples of spiritual fitness can be found throughout the Bible and is generally synonymous with righteous living.    In the Old Testament, Noah was described as “a just man, perfect in his generation, walking with God” (Gen. 6:9).   Noah’s spiritual fitness insured his perseverance in completing the daunting task of building the Ark.  Job was designated as “perfect and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil” (Job 1:1).  Job proved himself spiritually fit for the challenges placed in his life by Satan.  In the New Testament, spiritual fitness is connected to the renewing of the mind as a result of being new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  Concurrently, the “new man” is being continually conformed to the image of Jesus Christ through his obedient love for God and the infilling of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:29; Phil. 2:5-8).

So what does spiritual fitness look like? How does the believer know if they have it?  Spiritual fitness is not a list of “do’s and don’ts” nor is it a specific set of behaviors one can practice.  From our earlier definition it is a condition of qualification or “readiness” for God’s purposes.  It is a state of being.  Based on that definition and the biblical examples provided in God’s Word, I have assembled some general principles for understanding spiritual fitness by using the acrostic “FIRST”.  Why first?  To be spiritually fit, you must put “first things first”.  Spiritual fitness is necessary in order to continue on the path of righteous living even when the world would have you follow another path.

F-Have Faith in the truth of the Bible.  “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).  Trusting the sufficiency of Scripture is critical for spiritual fitness.  God’s Word is the anchor on which the believer’s reality and meaning is derived.  Unlike postmodern followers, believers rely on the truth of God’s Word.  It is relevant for 21st century living.  

I-Take on the Identity of Christ  “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6:6).  We know we are being conformed to the image of Christ—He is our model for spiritual fitness.   Our identity with Christ causes believers to realign their thinking and behavior with His.

R– Develop a Relationship with the God of glory. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).   Being in God’s presence is where spiritual change can take place.  For spiritual fitness, the believer’s relationship with God must become a priority.   

S-Walk as Sanctified people of God.  “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.” (Col. 2:6) Believers choose a lifestyle of holiness controlled (filled) by the Holy Spirit.  Spiritual fitness includes the pursuit of God and continuous development of the believer’s faith (Heb. 12:14).  Christ will judge those claiming identification with Him but who are not actively engaged in holy living (Matt. 7:21–23).

TTrust in the finished work of the cross.  “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).  Spiritual fitness helps believers live as new creatures in Christ, even when it doesn’t “feel” right.  The believer who is spiritually fit understands there is nothing they can do to earn their salvation nor is there anything they can do to loss it.  They are confident that God will carry out His sanctifying purposes to the end.

Spiritual fitness is not a destination—it’s a journey.  Let the Holy Spirit be your personal trainer. (1 Thess. 2:13-14)

Are You Spiritually Fit? Part 1

“For, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”  1 Timothy 4:8   (NRS)

For the last 90 days, I’ve been on a journey to wellness.  It began as a result of a minor physical irritation that eventually developed into a major restructure of my diet and exercise commitment.

One of the new tools I now use to assist me in developing a healthier lifestyle is my FitBit, a wireless, activity tracker that continually monitors and measures data such as the number of steps walked, heart rate, quality of sleep, steps climbed, and other personal health metrics.

Imagine if we had a “spiritual” Fitbit that would do the same.  What would be the data that could be gathered to indicate our spiritual fitness?

Fitness is defined as the state or condition of being “qualitied” for a specific purpose, physically or intellectually.  This is the definition we’re most familiar with seeing, however there is also an expansion of that definition to include “suitability and appropriateness”.

Spiritual is that which deals with the part of man that extends beyond the physical and is eternal in nature.  It exists forever, even when the physical body ceases to live (Heb. 9:27).

I’d like to use both definitions and put forth the proposition that in order to be spiritually fit, believers need to be both “qualified” and “suitable” for the purpose that God has designated for their lives (Ep. 2:10).  Spiritual fitness is the state or condition of being qualified and suitable for the purpose that God has identified for believers both individually and as the collective Church.  The disciple Peter was spiritually “unqualified” when Jesus identified him as key to the building of His future Church (Matt. 16:18); however, after the testing of the Calvary, the apostle Paul was more than “suitable” for the purpose of Pentecost (Acts 2:14).

Next week, we will discuss why believers should be concerned with spiritual fitness in the  21st century.  In the interim, I have a simple assessment to help you “check” your spiritual fitness.

(1) Do you feel spiritually weak and defeated in your efforts to walk holy?

(2) Do you find your choices and life style inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus the Christ?

(3) Is it becoming increasingly more difficult to living out your walk of faith?

If you answered yes to any of these three (3) questions, then it’s time to work on your spiritual fitness. See you next week.

Stay on the Path

“Enter through the narrow gate.

For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.”  Matthew 7: 13-14 (NIV)

 

A few years ago there is a commercial for financial planning that features a wide green path and arrow to guide the investor along life’s path.  As the investor strolls through the city, they are tempted to step off the path to pursue things that could hinder their ability to accomplish their long-term investment plans. The voice of the financial advisor coaches the investor to “just stay on the path.”  The implication is that as long as the investor “stays on the path” they will realize their financial goals and live happily ever after.

This commercial reminded me of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. He told His listeners to, “Enter through the narrow gate.”  The King James Version renders “narrow” as “strait.”  Strait (stenos) refers to a narrowness created by obstacles standing close about.   These obstacles could be the world’s view on how we are to enter God’s kingdom.  Jesus’ point in this teaching is that the way to life is through a portal providing controlled access along a narrow way defined by God.  In contrast, the wide highway represents the world’s “substitute” for the way of life.  The end, of course, is death.

As I talk with believers about activities in their local churches, I am disturbed and heartbroken.  The Church, which was created to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13), is choosing to “get off the path.”  Churches across this country have abandoned teaching and preaching the “full counsel” of God for “trendy methods” of ministry.  The “fervent prayers of the righteous” (James 5:16) have been replaced with small group discussions on why the church should practice religious tolerance.  Churches are more concerned with not offending others than with grieving the Holy Spirit.  Peter reminded the early church, that Christ Himself was “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence” (1 Peter 2:8).

It is extremely difficult to stay on the path of God when the world, especially the Church, is encouraging us to do otherwise. It is critical and life affecting that we stand fast in our faith (1 Peter 5:12).  We must resist being lured to “enter through the wide gate.” Do not be enticed by false teachings with their “faith-by-works, all-roads-lead-to-God” beliefs. Stay on the path until you reach your eternal goal of heaven. Remember, it is a narrow path that leads to life, and only a few find it.

SELAH: One of the inherent gift that is available with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is spiritual discernment. Spiritual discernment is “the ability to see life from God’s perspective”. It helps us to evaluate potential choices, options, and actions we may need to make in our life. Spiritual discernment helps believers to avoid potential “spiritual landmines” that might take us off path.

Read “The Power of a Discerning Spirit” then invite ask the Holy Spirit to heighten your discernment and reveal spiritual landmines currently in your life that might detour you from God’s desired purpose.

Faith to Persevere

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off,

and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and

confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

Hebrews 11:13   (NKJ)

To persevere requires one to continue despite difficulties, opposition, or discouragement. This requires not only spiritual power but also faith.  Our friends and family try to reassure us by telling us to “hang in there” or “tough it out” but unfortunately, encouraging words do not always succeed in moving us forward.

That is where “persevering faith” comes in.  Not “saving faith” that we associate with our initial salvation, but the ability to see through difficulties and press forward for the prize (Phil. 3:14).  I’m talking about “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).  Faith that perseveres looks to the future and visualize the promises of God, in all their fullness.  It was this “forward looking faith” that helped the Faith Hall of Famers to persevere.

“Having seen the promises afar off.”   The word “promises” is a metonymy—a figure of speech in which one word is substituted for another with which it is closely associated.  The word “promises” is a metonymy for the “things promised.” Literally, the Faith Hall of Famers “had received” their individual promises—whether it be deliverance from destruction, children to a barren couple, or a future homeland (vv. 10, 14,16). The “things promised” were the spiritual blessings of the Gospel dispensation and the future heavenly inheritance.  Each one died in the firm expectation of the promised Messiah and in believing views of the heavenly glory.  In their “mind’s eye”, they had an inner awareness of what the promises meant—in all their “fullness.”      

“were persuaded of them, and embraced them.” To be “persuaded” means to convince someone to believe something and to act on the basis of what is recommended. In this case, it is God who provided the promises.  The Hall of Famers confidently believed based on the veracity of God.  To “embrace” means to salute or greet.   Based on God’s assurance, they “eagerly welcomed” (versus acquiesced to) their destiny. They moved forward with full confidence.

confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”  To “confess” implies expressing openly one’s allegiance to a proposition or person. The Faith Hall of Famers desired more than this world had to offer, especially after seeing the promises afar off.  They fixed their eyes on those things which are above where Christ is seated (Col. 3:1).  If they regarded themselves daily as earthlings, they would not have retained the vision of faith and may have been tempted to turn back.      

The order of the aforementioned verbs teaches us an important practical lesson on developing persevering faith.  First, we must envision the promises of God.  Then, based on the Giver of the promises, we confidently accept, believe, and rest on the reliability of God’s word. It is here that our faith becomes grounded.  Lastly, faith “sees” with understanding, is “persuaded” in the heart and “embraced” by the will.

In a society where instant gratification is the norm, faith that perseveres requires a daily commitment to “forward looking” faith.  This letter to the Hebrews was to press upon them and us, the critical need for a faith that would last, wear, overcome obstacles, and endure until the end.  Like the Faith Hall of Famers, the eyes of our heart must see the blessings God has promised and be persuaded that in due season, they will be ours.  We are to joyfully anticipate our future as opposed to present advantages.  Faith that perseveres single-mindedly looks to the future with an eye on the Provider who “according to His divine power has given us exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Pet. 1:3, 4). 

 

SELAH: Ask God to share with you His plan for helping you to persevere in your faith.  What does God want you to “see” with your understanding, be “persuaded” in your heart, and “embrace” in your will?

Power to Persevere

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit,

and watching thereunto

with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. Ephesians 6:18 (KJV)

 

If you were to ask me what character trait is critical for spiritual growth and maturity, I would answer, “perseverance”; and if you were to then ask me which character trait is the most difficult to master, I would answer again, “perseverance.” Webster defined perseverance as the “act of continued, patient effort.” While many preachers and teachers typically stress the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) as traits worth nurturing, I’d like to spend time exploring a spiritual trait which also merits attention–perseverance.

The term perseverance communicates the idea of overcoming, energetic resistance, steadfastness under pressure, and endurance in the face of trial. To persevere means to be “constantly diligent and persistent”. Perseverance requires us to push through our pain and fear even when the challenge is daunting and difficult. It is more than “stick-to-it-ness” and calls for the believer to see past the current barrier, temptation, or persecution (1 Cor. 4:17-18).

Spiritual perseverance has its basis in two realities: (1) our hope and (2) the Holy Spirit. Our hope is based on confidence in God’s goodness and care–a sense that God loves us (Psalms 63:3) and that “He that began a good work in us is able to perform it (Phil.1:6). The Holy Spirit is critical in cultivating spiritual perseverance. Through His power and presence, we develop courage and boldness to overcome persecution and temptations (Acts 4:31). The Holy Spirit stands ready to empower us to meet the challenges we face (1 John 4:4). It is in His power that we are able to remain faithful to Lord and Savior in the midst of temptation and persecution (Rom. 14:4).

Stand firm on the hope of glory. Energetically serve God. Resist and overcome sin. Call upon the power of the Holy Spirit to help you live a life of personal holiness and service. Be diligent and steadfast in your walk of faith. You have the power to persevere.

“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation:

for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life,

which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” James 1: 12

 

SELAH:  Even the Apostle Paul had to learn to persevere.  Read his prayer found in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9.    Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal key areas in your life in which you need more power to persevere.

God’s Guide to Spiritual Fitness

In support of our 2017 Lydia’s Market theme of Living Well, I’d like to focus this week’s teaching on a key disciple that is foundational for “living well”—spiritual fitness.  For our discussion today spiritual fitness is defined as the state or condition of being qualified and suitable for God’s purpose. Examples of spiritual fitness can be found throughout the Bible and is generally synonymous with righteous living.

In the Old Testament, Noah was described as “a just man, perfect in his generation, walking with God (Gen. 6:9).   Noah’s spiritual fitness insured his determination in completing the daunting task of building the ArkIn the New Testament, spiritual fitness is connected to the renewing of the mind as a result of being new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  Concurrently, the “new man” is being continually conformed to the image of Jesus Christ through his obedient love for God and the infilling of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:29; Phil. 2:5-8).

So what does spiritual fitness look like? How does the believer know if they have it?  Spiritual fitness is not a list of “do’s and don’ts” nor is it a specific set of behaviors one can practice.  From our earlier definition it is a condition of qualification or “readiness” for God’s purposes.  It is a state of being.  Based on that definition and the biblical examples provided in God’s Word, I have assembled some general principles for understanding spiritual fitness by using the acrostic “FIRST”.  Why first?  To be spiritually fit, you must put “first things first”.  Spiritual fitness is necessary in order to continue on the path of righteous living even when the world would have you follow another path.

F-Have Faith in the truth of the Bible.  “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).  Trusting the sufficiency of Scripture is critical for spiritual fitness.  God’s Word is the anchor on which the believer’s reality and meaning is derived.  Unlike postmodern followers, believers rely on the truth of God’s Word.  It is relevant for 21st century living.  

I-Take on the Identity of Christ  “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6:6).  We know we are being conformed to the image of Christ—He is our model for spiritual fitness.   Our identity with Christ causes believers to realign their thinking and behavior with His.

R– Develop a Relationship with the God of glory. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).   Being in God’s presence is where spiritual change can take place.  For spiritual fitness, the believer’s relationship with God must become a priority.

S-Walk as Sanctified people of God.  “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.” (Col. 2:6) Believers choose a lifestyle of holiness controlled (filled) by the Holy Spirit.  Spiritual fitness includes the pursuit of God and continuous development of the believer’s faith (Heb. 12:14).  Christ will judge those claiming identification with Him but who are not actively engaged in holy living (Matt. 7:21–23).

TTrust in the finished work of the cross.  “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).  Spiritual fitness helps believers live as new creatures in Christ, even when it doesn’t “feel” right.  The believer who is spiritually fit understands there is nothing they can do to earn their salvation nor is there anything they can do to loss it.  They are confident that God will carry out His sanctifying purposes to the end.

Spiritual fitness is foundational to living well.  It is not a destination but intentional preparation for the journey God has prepared for each of us.  Need help?  Let the Holy Spirit be your personal trainer (Gal. 5:22-23).

SELAH:   Which of the “FAITH” principle(s) do you need to “exercise more” or “strengthen” in preparation to live out God’s purpose for your life?