Monday, September 10, 2012

Spiritual Fitness

Physical fitness is pretty easy to test. I remember the days of elementary school gym fitness testing. I must admit I dreaded those days. I was never very athletically gifted - at least in comparison to my peers. The gym teacher would have us go through a series of tests such as the long jump, sprints, pull ups, and one of my least favorites - the sit and reach. Oh, how I hated the sit and reach! I've always had terrible flexibility. When other kids were sliding down into splits I was busy blaming the cut of my pants for my lack of bend-ability. From a young age I've been aware that athletic prowess isn't my thing. Oh well! Some people have physical fitness talent and others, not so much. I'm in the not so much category and I've come to accept it.
There is another kind of fitness that I'm not so willing to let become out of shape. Spiritual fitness.
I never thought about my spiritual fitness very much - especially in elementary school. Like so many other Christians, I suppose I assumed that having faith was enough and, if bad times every befell me, I would rise to the occasion as needed. I didn't worry much about preparation - "stretching" and "working out" if you will. Yet, just like with physical fitness, spiritual fitness takes work. It doesn't take the kind of work that focuses on how good you can be and how close to perfect you can come. It has to do with becoming in tune with God, learning to die to self, practicing the principle of obedience in the small things. The work we must do to grow our spiritual fitness has to do with learning how to draw on the Holy Spirit. That isn't easy for our human nature that wants to be in charge and has the tendency to focus solely on the "self". But the workouts we are doing (aka walking through life) are growing our ability to be God focused in all things and in all circumstances.

When life is good what are we praising? Are we praising God or are we forgetting that we are living in the midst of his blessings?
When we encounter difficult people how are we reacting? Do we forget God's love for people or are we resorting to frustration and a short temper?
When we make a mistake on the job what is our reaction? Are we just looking to place blame or are we humbly admitting our failure and seeking to correct it?
When it rains and our plans for a day outside are ruined what is our plan B? Or are we too busy complaining to even acknowledge that an enjoyable plan B even exists?

These small, seemingly insignificant daily life situations are opportunities to become more spiritual fit. If we aren't drawing on God's power in these exercises how will we ever draw on his power for the big race? Just like an Olympic athlete, you can't show up for the competition of a lifetime without spending some serious time training. Take, for example, Gabby Douglas - the Olympic gymnast who took gold this year for the US team. She had been training her whole life for that moment and even moved across the country, away from her family, four years earlier to train with a particular coach. She devoted her life to being fit and ready to compete with the best of the best. She had to sacrifice. Her life looked and, looks, so much different then most girls her age because of the intense training she choose to take on. Her life has been shaped by her physical fitness.
We have that option with our spiritual fitness. We can choose to live it out each and every day - making sacrifices, taking the road less traveled and having a life that looks far from normal. In the end it will all pay off. When the tough trials and true tests of our faith come, we will be ready. This is the only way to prepare for such a day. We cannot expect to know how to handle these difficulties if we haven't trained and worked our spiritual muscles.
Each day is a day at the "gym". Will you give it your all and push yourself to the limit by continually giving yourself over to God's power and living a life of obedience? Or will you trudge through the day on your own steam and stamina? Put into practice now the principle of drawing on God's Holy Spirit and you will face each day with the peace and security of having the ultimate power guiding and directing your life. You will be ready to take on the toughest challenges and walk with God's strength through the most difficult of circumstances. The training will not always be easy and there will be times when it will stretch you beyond what you thought you could ever handle. Push on, run the race, keep your eye on the power of the Holy Spirit. In the end, all your training will prove to be worth every ounce of blood, sweat and tears. It is all worth it when you know you are training for the glory of God.

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