Have you ever been in an exercise class? Or chased kids around the yard? Or tried for five minutes to copy every move a baby makes during tummy time? If you’re like me, it only takes a few minutes of strenuous exercise to let you know what kind of shape you’re in.
To exercise muscles means to put them to use–to stretch them, to test their limits, to work up a sweat, to get the heart pumping, and to burn calories. In other words, this is not merely to go through the motions, but to develop physical and even spiritual virtues.
“…but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1Cor. 9:27)
One motivator for me to exercise is to lose weight so I’m lighter and faster on my feet, with improved stamina, health, strength, and appearance. But one look in the mirror or a few minutes of soccer with the kids shows me I’m not very disciplined in this area.
Exercising faith must look something like exercising the body. If I exercise faith, I stretch it, test its limits, work up a spiritual sweat, and a faster heartbeat. I burn the fat in my soul so I’m quicker to answer God’s call to obey, love, risk, and lay down my life for others.
If I exercise my faith, I want to improve my spiritual stamina, endurance, and health to withstand the attacks of the Enemy and “to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13) as God continues to make me beautiful.
Like any rigorous program of physical exercise, the spiritual exercise of faith will have at least two results:
1. Sore muscles–physical muscles tear a little in strenuous exercise. That’s why they hurt. There’s a cost to spiritual exercise, too–a decision to tear away lesser practices for greater ones.
2. Stronger faith–in the healing process, muscles grow larger and stronger–if we persevere in the training.
Every spiritual training program will be as individual as each person’s weaknesses and areas of spiritual cellulite. Just as distractions derail physical exercise programs, spiritual exercise is bound to meet with obstacles, too.
In fact, every time I determine again to begin a program of either physical or spiritual discipline, I find myself in a ferocious battle with God’s enemy and ours, the devil–a battle from which I often limp away–bruised, bleeding, and discouraged.
That battle is the test of my spiritual six-pack. How long does the Enemy fool me? How long before I remember he has no claim on me? That I’m not alone? That God has not and never will let go of me? How well do I know the character and promises of God?
How soon do I return to His path, and my discipline?
Do I know how to put on the full, protective armor of God, to thrust and parry with the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God–so that the Word Himself, this Jesus, fights for me? Do I have His Word hidden in my heart, thrust into my belt, my hand always on the hilt?
Lord–crummy as I am at sticking to a program of physical exercise and caloric restraint, I know I need Your help to exercise my faith to build my spiritual muscles and trim away the useless things I gorge on instead of You.
I praise You for Your promise to us that “He who began a good work in you will complete it,” (Phil. 1:6) so we know that, while the choice to obey You in exercising faith is ours, You’ll transform our pitiful offerings and attempts into wholeness, beauty, and strength. Thank You, Lord. I love You.