Tag Archives: spiritual maturity

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).

Are You Spiritually Fit? Part 2

How did you do on your spiritual fitness assessment?  Are you spiritually flabby?  Do you need to add a few more exercises to help build up your spiritual muscles?  Like physical fitness, if you want to grow stronger, spiritually, you’ll need to be intentional in your “workouts”.  But why?

 Why should believers care about being spiritually fit? 

Because we live in a postmodern world.  Postmodern or post modernism is a philosophy that says there are no absolutes (no rules / no truth) and that all viewpoints are equally valid.  Such thinking reduces all religion to the level of opinion.  With that thinking, the basic tenets of the Christian faith are dismissed and rejected including the Bible as the authoritative Word of God and Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation.  And what is left to guide the human soul?  Truth is determined by the individual’s viewpoint or “spiritual bentness”—the degree to which one ascribes to the worldview on how life is to be lived  and away from God’s instructions for holy living.  It’s a matter of personal belief and personal choice.  But remember Jeremiah’s warning:   “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?”  (Jer. 17:9)

 Why do believers need to be spiritually fit?

First, being spiritually fit determines the believer’s outlook on life.  The cry of believers living in a postmodern world dominated by materialism, sexual immorality, and wickedness is “how are we to live?” (2 Pet. 3:11)  The Apostle Peter describes us as “peculiar people” (1 Pet. 2:9).  That means we don’t look like the world.  Our worldview is shaped by “who we are” and “whose we are”.  Believers live according to the authoritative Word of God—every “jot and tittle” and we know that by no other name, under heaven or earth, can one be saved but by Jesus Christ (Acts 4:11-12).  Bottom-line, the believer’s outlook is shaped by God, from whom we derive our meaning and our reality.

Secondly, being spiritually fit determines the believer’s output in life.  As believers we know that our lives were purchased for a price and we live as the redeemed of God (Ps. 107:2).  We no longer live for ourselves, existing only to gratify our fleshly needs like the world.  Our purpose and all our efforts are directed by the Holy Spirit.  It is in Him that we live and move and have our meaning (Act 17:28).  We know that the things of this life are fading away.  Therefore believers focus their energies on those things that have eternal value and benefit (2 Cor. 4:17-18; Matt. 7:24-29).

Finally, being spiritually fit determines the believer’s outcome after life.   Whether people believe in God or not does not dismiss the reality of existence beyond our life on planet earth.  It is called eternity. The choices made in this life will result in where one will spend eternity.  As believers become more spiritually fit and mature, they realize that the time in which they currently live is set in the framework of eternity.  As we become daily transformed by the Word of God and conformed to the image of Christ, our priorities and desires shift from this passing world to things above where Christ dwells (Col. 3:1-2). We proclaim like Paul, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

Join us next week as we answer the question, “What does spiritual fitness look like?”

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.

The God of Possible

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible,

but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”  Mark 10:27 (NKJ)

When facing the challenges of life, the first question that comes to mind is whether we are able to handle them.  This response is based on our ability or power to alter or control the circumstance.   Either we have it or we don’t.  Those things we feel unable to master we describe as impossible.   As we continue our series, “In God We Trust”, it good to know that we serve the God of Possible.

The Greek rendering of the word “impossible” is adynatosThis word indicates that, a person or thing lacks the ability to do a specific action.  In our text today, this word is used as an adjective and means “powerless or impotent.”  However, what is impossible for unaided human beings is “possible” or dynatos with God.  God is more than able—excelling in power.

The Old Testament is replete with passages that illustrate human limitations.  Many times Israel called upon Jehovah to intervene on their behalf.  It was Jehovah Jireh (The Lord who provides) they called upon in time of need (Gen. 22:14).  After successfully crossing the Red Sea it was Jehovah Ripah (The Lord who heals) they promised to faithfully follow (Ex. 15:26).  In the time of battle, Israel lifted their voices to Jehovah Nissi (The Lord who is our banner) as their source for victory (Ex. 17:15).  Every name given to God in the Old Testament revealed His unalterable power and ability to handle every circumstance Israel faced.  From Genesis to Malachi, God proves Himself to be the God of possible.

The New Testament carries over this Old Testament view of human inability contrasted with God who is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask and think” (Eph. 3:20). Because of his inherent nature, God is able to help those who come to Him (Heb. 2:18), to save completely those who trust in Jesus (Heb. 7:25; Jude 24) and in short, to make every grace abound toward us (2 Cor. 9:8).    Man, though created in the image of God, apart from God is impotent—able “to do nothing” (John 15:5).

In an age where self-sufficiency is valued, it’s common to minimize God’s ability to do the impossible.  This belief may be held by those who feel there is no one who can understand their unique situation or problem.  They may feel embarrassed or even ashamed.  God’s love invites them to “cast their burden on Him because He cares for them” (1 Pet. 5:7).  Perhaps people view their challenges as insurmountable.  To them, The Creator of the universe responds, “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)  Perhaps individuals are burdened by sin—sin they feel is unforgiveable.  For that group, Jesus gladly responds with open arms of acceptance and says, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”   The next time you’re faced with an impossible task, place your trust in God and shift your focus from your inability to the all-powerful, loving God of possible.

 Good to the Last Byte…  

What are the impossible things mentioned in the New Testament? Here’s a brief sampling for your personal study:  Matthew 19:26, Luke 18:27; Acts 14:8; Romans 8:3 and Hebrews 6:4.  It is of course impossible for God to lie, for His nature lacks that capacity (Heb. 6:18).  That should bring us great comfort and assurance in His Word.

Hold Fast to the WORD

“Preach the Word…” 2 Tim. 4:2 (NKJ)

The Word of God is the truth by which believers are to successfully navigate this world.  “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.  It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NLT). As believers operate in these end times, it is critical that they are able to stand fast in their faith and boldly proclaim the truth of God’s Word.

Current worldview has created an atmosphere where biblical principles and practices are continually challenged, if not totally ignored.   The demand for social and moral freedom has set the stage for denial of biblical truth and authority. The Bible is seen as neither God speaking nor the actual Word of God. Instead, it is seen as an inhibitor to self-determination and self-gratification.  In 21st century vernacular, the Bible is a “buzz kill” taking the “edge of people’s fluff.”[1]

College students relegate the Bible to the status of “glorified fairy tales” with little substantive value. (Lord, help them!) These individuals will be our future workforce, leaders, and yes, our Church. Gen Xers and Millennials, seeking answers on how to live purposeful lives, discount the Bible as “irrelevant and inadequate” for the challenges they face. These generations are a formidable influence in the shaping of not only our current political and social policies but also in determining the religious beliefs of generations to come. And who will direct these groups to the “light of God’s Word” (Ps. 119:105)? Current believers and the Church? There is little difference between them and the aforementioned groups. They seldom read their Bibles, let alone use it as the final authority on truth with their families or in their personal life. They look no different than the rest of the world.

These patterns of disbelief should not come as a surprise. Paul in his letter to Timothy exhorted him:

“Preach the word of God. Be persistent, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to right teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever they want to hear. They will reject the truth and follow strange myths.”                                                                                                                                                                 2 Timothy 4:2-4 (NLT)

The Word of God will continue to be challenged by the World and yes, even the Church. It is because of this fact that believers are to stand firm based on the power, sufficiency, and authority of the Word of God.  Paul’s instructions are still pertinent for believers today.  We are to boldly proclaim, without excuse, the supremacy and sufficiency of Scripture over the worldview. How do we prepare for this challenge? Read books to help you defend your faith. Listen to Christian teachers who can help you answer frequent questions people have about God and His Word. Finally, ask the Holy Spirit (your Personal Teacher) to help you respond to challenges and push back you might receive. Remember, “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).  Hold fast to the Word!

[1] Urbandictionary.com