Spiritual disciplines are all about intimacy with Jesus. If you begin a relationship with Jesus and then just leave it at that, you soon will grow very unfit. Just like with physical heath, your relationship with Jesus requires exercise, good diet and specific practices. Otherwise, you will lose desire for him. Your spirit will grow sluggish. Bad health tends to spiral leading to more bad health. Keep Reading...
The Need for Spiritual Discipline
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 - Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
The following disciplines are meant to be incorporated into our daily / weekly routines. They should not be one-off events. Rather, as they are practiced regularly, they will keep your body, soul and spirit fit. You will be exercised in different areas of your life, just like it is important to diversify your physical exercise. God does not want to make us into bodybuilders with a huge upper body and tiny legs. He is into whole person transformation, or complete fitness.
Take a moment to surrender yourself before the Lord. Perhaps he has already given you ways of staying spiritually fit. But, he will want to tweak, add to, or switch things up in your routines. Are you ready? Tell him that you want to follow his best for you in this season of life.
It’s all about relationship with Jesus. These disciplines are not meant to be a mindless protein shake for the soul. Relationships require listening and feeding back. This should be happening throughout your exercises. Jesus has so much to reveal to you about himself as you ready yourself to receive him.
Colossians 4:2 - Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
We all tend to pray when the pressure is on. When there is a need for breakthrough, we know what it is to cry out to God. But, how are your prayer muscles? Are you able to regularly "lift" prayers to God? Or does it seem like a big push to pray longer than twenty seconds?
It is in prayer that we cultivate relationship with God. It is in the listening and the responding that we learn God's character and ways. If we are not practiced or exercised in prayer, our knowledge and experience of God will stay at a minimum. So, how do we start?
First, we need to understand that prayer is meant to be both an event and an ongoing process. You might like to run once a day for exercise (or maybe should start :)). This is a focused event in your day. But, you spend the rest of your day walking around your house, office or school. So too, prayer should be a focused exercise in our lives - "devote yourselves to prayer." Colossians 4:2; Matthew 5:5-13 But also, it is to be a continuous experience - "pray continually." 1 Thessalonians 5:17
The best way to practice prayer is to practice listening to God. The reason we have lackluster prayer times is that we are not being prompted by God how we should pray. We find ourselves repeating the same phrases of, "Bless him, protect her and be with them…." Take a focused minute each day to ask God how you should pray. Follow his prompting. When you "run out" of things to pray, pause again and listen. Your ears are just as vital as your mouth in prayer.
#2 the Word
Mark 4:8 NIV - Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.
So, how can we allow the Word of God to bear fruit in our lives?
Read it. Deuteronomy 6:6 - These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. In order to get God's Word on our hearts, we must first get it through our eyes or ears. It needs to come in our bodies. So, we need to set aside time to read or listen to the Word of God. The point is not just to read a daily quota of Scripture. The goal is that God's words go deep inside and affect our heart.
Obey it. Joshua 1:7 - Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Nurturing the seed (the Word of God) comes through specific application to his Word. When reading the Bible, always ask God for your obedience step related to his Word. Don't walk away until you know how to obey him. John 5:39
Remember it. John 14:26 - But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. It is most important that we find ways to remember what God said. The Holy Spirit has promised to help us in this process. But, we must do our part in writing it, memorizing it, doing whatever we can to remember what he said.
Say it. Joshua 1:8 - Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Remember, the Word of God is to be used. The primary way we use his Word is by speaking it out. Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 6:17 The power of God's Word gets activated through our mouths. So, go on… speak it, sing it, share it, shout it.
Move beyond lifeless routine in your handling of God's Word. Get active in using it. Read it, obey it, remember it and say it. Perhaps, it would be helpful for you to concentrate on one Scripture passage for several days, until it begins to affect your heart and starts to bear fruit.
Psalm 100:1-5 - Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
All of the physical activities commanded in Scripture regarding worship are ways to surrender our bodies to him. Remember - worship is all about surrender. It's not a style of music that God is looking for. He desires living sacrifices offered to him as worship. Romans 12:1
So, what part of yourself would you hold back in worship to God? Would you hold back a shout, a dance, a song or a clap? Would you offer your whole body to him in worship? Here are some ways to do this…
Step One - Find a place where you can be alone. Read Psalm 96 aloud.
Step Two - Using the words of Psalm 96, make up a melody and sing it out. If you prefer, act out the words of this Psalm.
Step Three - Begin speaking out your thanksgiving to God. Don't stop with one or two things. Remember small moments of God's goodness and keep going…. Speak your thanksgiving out loud. He loves hearing your voice. That's why he gave it to you.
Make active worship a part of your daily routine. Practice getting active in your expression of worship to God. That is what he desires. And it is what he deserves.
#4 Physical Exercise
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 - Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
And you thought the spiritual disciplines were only about your inner life with God… Did you know that the Father loves your heart, soul, mind and your body? Your body is not mere flesh and bones, a meaningless house for your spirit.
This is what the Greeks of old thought. The flesh and the spirit were separate entities to them. In other words, what you did with your flesh didn't really matter. As long as you kept your spirit pure, you were doing just fine. We have kept this wrong thinking alive in modern times as we separate our worlds into "sacred" and "secular". So we tend to give God our "hearts and minds" (our sacred or spiritual life), and then we keep the physical aspects (the secular) to ourselves.
Did you realize the plans that God has for your body? He says, "Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit." 1 Corinthians 6:19 Oh yes, your body is deeply spiritual. It houses the Holy Spirit. Throughout history, God has looked for physical houses where he could fill with his glory… a place where he could live. He did this in the tabernacle, Exodus 40:34 the temple 2 Chronicles 5:14 and now in you.
God has been very clear throughout Scripture about maintaining his house and keeping it pure. Is your body prepared for his glory to come and remain on you? Physical fitness through maintaining a healthy lifestyle in exercise and diet is a primary way that we can take care of God's house.
John 13:14-15 - Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
Most of our days are filled with timelines, goals, meetings, work, classes, and hobbies. It seems like our time is spread so thin. How could we add another project like serving to our day? Really… who wants to serve when it would be so much easier to hide away and play Candy Crush on your phone?
Practical acts of service are not meant to be treated as a series of necessary evils. They are opportunities to follow in the steps of Jesus. He does not call us to do something that he has not already done. Jesus not only performed the ultimate act of service on the cross, but he served people continually throughout his life. He spent most of his time with crowds of people giving himself away. Jesus served constantly through healing, delivering, comforting and teaching people.
How could you start getting disciplined in service? Opportunities to serve abound in your daily schedule. Ask God to point out a person to serve today. You could also ask God to point out a situation into which you could offer some practical service. Follow Jesus in this. Don't just find a random thing to do. As you sense his quiet prompting, take care of your act of service immediately. Do it without fanfare - just like Jesus. Don't call attention to yourself. Be grateful for the opportunity to join Jesus in serving.
Mark 16:15 - He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.
You might look at Jesus' command and feel overwhelmed. How does one preach to ALL creation? Perhaps this command is for the evangelist or missionary… but could it be for me? Do you know how to preach the good news to all creation? One person at a time.
It takes practice to preach. Just like with physical exercise, it takes small steps of faithfulness to get fit in evangelism. Notice that Jesus does not tell us only to look for divine appointments, then preach. He doesn't tell us only to preach when asked. He says, "Preach the good news to ALL creation."
In order to run a 15K race, you start by getting off the couch. Then, you put small runs in, slowly building your endurance and confidence. So too with evangelism, it starts by getting off the couch. You could wait for months before a person comes up to you and asks you to share the good news with them. To get fit, you need to practice starting conversations.
Ask God for openings to share the good news on the train, on the street, in the restaurant and at the grocery store. Then, seize every opportunity you can. The more people you talk to… the more you will see the power of God at work. If you do not initiate conversations, you will miss out on being used by God to see salvation come.
Evangelism takes practice. Start today!
Genesis 2:2-3 NIV - By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Rest is a crucial component of fitness. In our younger years, it's in our sleep that we grow taller. The rhythm of work and rest is necessary for long-term health and spiritual power. How is your rest fitness?
Some think it is more spiritual to work non-stop, to burn the candle at both ends in work, ministry or hobbies. This is not God's best for us. He calls us to practice resting. God himself models this for us on Day 7 of creation. The One with the limitless source of energy chose to rest. So can you.
How to rest well? … that's another question. It's nice having a good sleep-in. But, will sleep alone give you the real rest you need? During your time off, what do you spend your hours doing? Netflix, surfing the internet, or Insta-Snap-Face-Tubing? We get excited about our time off, thinking that these hours are MINE.
Movies, the internet, social media can be fine outlets for rest if Jesus remains Lord over our time. He knows what will bring real life to us. Why don't you ask him for boundaries around your "rest activities"? The greatest source of rest comes in submitting to Jesus. Our souls get fed.
When our rest times become "ME" times without paying attention to God's loving boundaries, we get drained. In fact, the very times intended for great refreshment end up weighing our spirits down. To practice rest fitness, we need to make Jesus Lord over our off times.
He will show you the proper rhythms of sleep, worship, movies, social media, fun-filled hang-outs, etc. Don't assume you know how to rest well. Get fit by asking Jesus and following his rest fitness plan for you!
Missionary. Teacher. Worship Leader. Deeply desiring to make God's Word accessible and understandable to all. May you be transformed as God's Word fills your life.