Many of the same habits for getting and staying in physical shape hold true for getting and staying in spiritual shape as well. Similarities also exist with regard to the necessary mindset for both. Realizing that the two connect in significant ways can lead us to effectively, “run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24).
Endurance. Strength. Consistency. Flexibility. All essential elements, physicaly or spiritualy. These elements, along with the 5 habits discussed below, create a solid training program applicable both spiritually and physically. Physical and spiritual health are so interrelated that addressing the two together can significantly increase overall health and fitness.
- Accountability. Physically, a gym membership and/or an exercise partner provide accountability, which is a key component to staying physically active. Likewise, membership in a Bible-believing fellowship along with connection to individuals through deeper relationships provide an essential element for spiritual fitness. Surrounding yourself with others for support and encouragement goes a long way in remaining consistent, whether physically or spiritually.
- Variety. Exercise can become boring very quickly without variety. My workouts vary from running and elliptical workouts to biking and boxing. Relating this idea to spiritual fitness, avoid boxing yourself in to one way of serving or studying God’s Word. Yes, serve in your area of strength (play on the worship team if you have musical ability) and have systematic approaches to reading God’s Word daily (reading a 10-minute devotion every morning), but be willing to go outside of your comfort zone too (work in the nursery even though you normally teach adults, and do a key-word study once in a while). Healthy variety not only helps prevent boredom, but it allows space for God to work in weaknesses, which ultimately makes us stronger overall (2 Corinthians 12:10).
- Rest. Fail to allow for adequate recovery time between workouts, and injury will eventually occur. Spiritually, this equates to regular quiet time with God as well as getting physical rest. Lack of proper rest inhibits the ability to confidently say “Yes!” when asked, “Are You Giving Your Best?” Being tired physically as well as spiritually significantly impacts effectiveness in every area of life.
- Stretching. When was the last time you did something for the first time? Are you will to try new activities? Last summer, I went kayaking for the first time. Several years ago, I tried surfing. (The above surfing picture – not me – is how the wave felt. The picture to the right is reality. Still tons of fun!) Next, I’m going to try indoor rock climbing. For me, these stretch me physically and mentally. Stretching physically also means gently stretching muscles regularly to make them better able to handle activity without injury. Spiritual stretching might involve getting to know new people especially if you’re an introvert like me, doing an in-depth Bible study if you always just do a short devotional, or joining the choir even though you’ve never performed in front of an audience before. Be open to the Holy Spirit’s leading for opportunities to stretch physically, mentally and spiritually. Also be open to the idea that stretching in all three areas can take place together and can go a long way in making us more flexible.
- Refueling. Our minds and spirits are like cars with regard to fuel. We need it in order to function. Physically, a healthy diet gives us the energy we need. Mentally, proper fuel (what we eat as well as drink) allows us to think and reason clearly and effectively. Spiritually, not only does our physical fuel impact our fitness, spiritual nourishment does as well. Our spirits need filled up regularly on the Truth of God’s Word. They need constant filling by the Holy Spirit through prayer, praise and submission. Life constantly asks more and more of us and thus drains our energy (our fuel stores if you will) regularly. Refueling properly allows us to give without being drained and to do so on a consistent basis.
Adding to the connection between spiritual and physical fitness, is the realization that both involve also ridding our lives of negative influences. Physically, this invovles avoiding unhealthy lifestyle habits such as a poor diet, smoking and drugs. Spiritually, this means avoiding those things like those which Paul tells us in Colossians 3:5-9 to “put to death.” In other words, employing the above positive habits only go so far on their own. Eliminating negative habits and influences needs to be done as well.
One more point must be made in order to have a proper perspective of physical and spiritual fitness. So much attention is given in our culture today to physical appearance. More specifically, being healthy and in shape is lauded as the ultimate path to a long and prosperous life. While the significance of good physical health should not be discounted, neither should it be our top priority. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “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). To have endurance for running a strong race, we must make our spiritual health our top priority. This is the best way to manage our time in order to get in shape for eternity.
DISCUSSION: What changes can you make this week to be more physically and spiritually fit?