“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world.” 1 John 2:15-16 (NRS)
It is truly inspirational to watch not only the various sports events, but to also hear the athletes’ stories as to what it took to reach this point in their career. Many had shown a natural “gifting” in their particular sports field, apparent even as young children. However, the trait that had brought them to success was their acceptance of the reality of what it would take to become world class athletes. It would take mental focus, personal sacrifice and physical discipline, just to name a few. Believers must be continually aware of the realities that tend to “bend them” toward the world’s view of life versus God’s expectations of Christian behavior (James 1: 13-15).
The first reality believers must face is that the world is a hostile environment for the believer. Persecution and suffering are inevitable for believers (John 15:18-21). Remember the sharp looks you received when you blessed your food at your favorite restaurant? What about those scowls you experienced from friends when you refused to watch that “questionable” movie with them? How were you perceived by your coworkers after the last staff meeting when you challenged their use of racial slurs or questioned that unethical business practice your manager recommended for the company? The reality is that the believer will encounter resistance as they move away from the influence of the world and daily become conformed to the image of Christ.
The second reality believers must face is the influence of Satan on the believer’s life. Although Satan is not as powerful and mighty as God, he is a reality that believers must acknowledge and understand if they are to become spiritually fit. Satan seeks to destroy (John 10:10), is the father of lies (John 8:44), and seldom changes his strategies. When I think of Satan, I liken him to Lucy of the Peanuts comic strip who is relentless in tempting Charlie Brown to kick the proverbial football. She uses no new distractions to humiliate him—the same old football and the same old promise, “I won’t move the ball”. And guess what, poor old Charlie Brown cannot resist. He will trust Lucy one last time. He kicks! Lucy moves the ball. Charlie Brown is lying flat on his back. What is the football that Satan uses to entice and tempt you away from God’s purpose? What is the promise that Satan keeps making that you know is a lie?
Finally, we as believers must face the reality of dealing with our own “unredeemed” flesh (Rom. 7:18-20). Hebrews 12:1 encourages believers “to set aside every weight and the sin that besets or entangles us”. “The sin” may be prayerlessness, unbelief, or even failure to trust God. “The sin” might be that you’re a gossiper or you tend to judge people. “The sin” may be fragments of your “old nature” that you have refused to “let go” (Ep. 4:25-31). It is usually “the sin” versus sins that keeps believers from reaching their full spiritual potential. Do you want to know what your “sin issues” is? Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you. He will not condemn you but He will convict you by revealing God’s truth about you including His purpose for your life.
Believers in Christ must deal with the realities of living in the 21st century with its trials and temptations. Spiritual fitness will require godly focus, personal sacrifice and spiritual discipline. Sound familiar? Believers must also remember they are not alone on this journey to spiritual fitness. The Holy Spirit is our PST—Personal Spiritual Trainer—to insure that “He (God) that began a good work in us is able to perform it in us” (Phil. 1:6). Our part in developing spiritual fitness, in becoming “World Class Believers”, is to “press for the prize of the high calling of God” (Phil. 3:14). If we are successful, there is a crown of glory at the finish line (James 1:12).