8 "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
1 Timothy 4:8 (NIV)
You don’t expect to be fast or skilled without training for your sport. Why would you expect to be spiritually fit without spiritual training?
In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster wrote about these disciplines: meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance and celebration.
Just like exercise equipment gets you in physical shape, those tools help you get your heart, mind and soul in shape.
Imagine if you prayed as purposefully as you did plyometrics. Imagine if you worshipped with the same intensity as you sprinted on defense. Imagine if you served with the same commitment that you give to your workout in the weight room. Imagine if you sought simplicity like you seek social media.
Maybe it seems like spiritual disciplines are akin to the legalism Jesus opposed. They can be if our hearts are not in it or our motives are wrong.
But disciplines are not an end in themselves. They are ways of life and forms of pursuing God and nearness to Him.
Remember, Jesus was ritualistic. Note His habits as you read the Gospels. Jesus didn’t follow laws invented and distorted by humans. But He kept the religious ceremonies and traditions prescribed to the Jews. He followed the Torah.
Athlete, keep in mind you are not training to be approved by God, because you already have His approval.
Jesus is your justification, righteousness and vindication. You can do nothing to earn those things. But that does not mean you are done training. On the contrary, your incorporation into Christ is impetus to use the tools He provides to get in shape.
New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg put it well, “Salvation is free, but it cost us our lives.” Salvation, though it is a gift, can be “worked out” (Philippians 2:12). Just like physical exercise requires a conscious decision, so does spiritual exercise.
Athlete, God picked you to be on His team. It would be foolish to get lazy once you received a scholarship. A scholarship is the beginning of a commitment to one’s craft, not the end of it.
Similarly, becoming a Christian is the beginning of a commitment to grow in your walk with Christ.
Athlete, are you as devoted to God as you are to the skills required to play your position? Are you as concerned with the fitness level of your heart, mind and soul as you are with your physical fitness? You should be.
Think of your heart, mind and soul as your most essential muscles, and start training.
Remember, we are not training to earn approval. We choose to train because Jesus set us free and provided exercise equipment. So, what do you want to do with your freedom in Jesus?