Category Archives: Spiritual Endurance

Truth: The Divine Perspective

 

You were getting along so well. Who has interfered with you to hold you back from following the truth?   (Gal. 5:7, NLT)

Truth is a very significant concept.  Our view of truth shapes our societies and our personal lives.  It also influences our relationship with God and our view of Scripture.  Our definition of truth is impacted by the magazines we read, our choice of news broadcasters and even the opinions of our friends.  And if you follow social media, your “truth” is being adjusted with every post and tweet you receive—every 60 seconds, 175,000 tweets are sent.

Let’s face reality!  We live in an age where we are being bombarded by varying opinions as to what is or isn’t truth.  Because of these deceptive trends, it is important that believers have a reliable and trustworthy compass by which to navigate in this world.  We need guidance from God.  We need divine perspective.

In the Old Testament, truth (’emeth) is rendered as “true” or “faithful”.  In either case, the Hebrew concept communicated in its use is reliability and trustworthiness.   This trustworthiness is frequently used to describe God’s divine faithfulness (Ps. 31:5; Jer. 42:5).

Those who walk in God’s truth accept as trustworthy God’s view of moral realities and act in harmony with His divine revelations:  “For thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in thy truth.” (Ps. 26:3)  Dependence on God’s truth is not based on emotional sentimentalities but firmly grounded in the nature of God (Deut. 7:9).

Truth (al’ētheia) in the New Testament emphasizes reality as God has revealed it in creation (Rom. 1:18) and in the gospel (Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:5; 1 Tim. 2:4).

Adherence to the truth was critical during the formation of the early Church.  Paul reminds believers in Ephesus of the role truth played in their salvation:  “In Him (Christ) you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.” (Eph. 1:13, RSV)  The Apostle John instructs believers to hold fast to the gospel truth:  “I was overjoyed when some of the friends arrived and testified to your faithfulness to the truth, namely how you walk in the truth.” (3 John 1:3.)

Through God’s revelation we have access to reliable knowledge—divine truth—about God, about ourselves, and about how we are to live in relationship with our fellow man.  This is especially important since there is often a tendency by believer’s to separate their “faith walk” from their “life style”.   God’s truth is to be put into daily practice.  Knowing the reliability of God and accepting the reality of God, believers can begin to operate from God’s perspective.  God’s divine truth becomes the vehicle by which we are able to successfully navigate in this postmodern society.

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).

Becoming World Class Believers

“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).

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.

Faith to Persevere: The Application

“All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth.”

Hebrews 11:13 (NRS)

 

All the Faith Hall of Famers “died in faith” not having received the promises but having seen them afar were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth (Heb. 11:13). The word “promises” in this text from Hebrews speaks specifically to the promised Messiah and their future heavenly inheritance.

As “partakers of God’s glory”, we have begun to receive the promises of God on “this side” of eternity (2 Pet. 1.3-11) with the glorious assurance of eternal life on “the other side.”  Informed with that knowledge of God (2 Cor. 4.6) and empowered by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), we can move forward with that which God has set before us “being fully persuaded, that what He (God) had promised, He is able also to perform (Rom. 4:21).

Here are three (3) key principles we can adopt from the Faith Hall of Famers to develop persevering faith.

  1. We must believe that He who promises is faithful. This requires that we know Him “personally”. Our schedule should include daily communion and fellowship with Him to better understand His will and His ways (Col. 1:9; Rom. 8:27). Would you put your life in the hands of someone you don’t know personally?  Our confidence comes from knowing Him (Deut. 33:12).
  1. We must understand His promises for our life. This is not only those promises we want for ourselves but those He has designated in His Word for us.  Some scholars have cited 365 promises of God for His people—one for every day of the year. All the promises of God are “yes and amen” (2 Cor. 1:20).
  1. We must look past our experience here on earth. While we acknowledge our presence on “planet earth”, we must remind ourselves daily that we are “pilgrims” traveling through this temporary period called “time”.  “Seeing afar of” requires visual acuity beyond our natural sight resulting in seeing beyond what we can see.  (1 Cor. 2:14-16).

I close with these words from Oswald Chambers concerning faith that perseveres:

Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do—He reveals to you who He is. Believe God is always the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him. Then think how unnecessary and disrespectful worry is! Let the attitude of your life be a continual willingness to “go out” in dependence upon God, and your life will have a sacred and inexpressible charm about it that is very satisfying to Jesus. You must learn to “go out” through your convictions, creeds, or experiences until you come to the point in your faith where there is nothing between yourself and God.

SELAH:  Meditate on Hebrews 11:13 and then ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what holds you to this earth and unable to “see afar off”.

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?