Spiritual Exercise

We hear a lot about exercise today. It seems that keeping in shape is one of the important pastimes in our day. We spend a terrific amount of time and money on exercise and food that will keep our bodies fit and trim. We build big buildings, set up programs, conduct classes, attend diet organizations, buy health foods all in the interest of bodily fitness. The object of all this activity is to combat the inactivity of our jobs, the vast amount of free time, junk food and all the modern conveniences which rob us of our exercise.

I suppose all this emphasis has some place in our lives since there is no doubt that our bodies are the earthly tabernacles given us by God in which He dwells by the Holy Spirit. We may not misuse or abuse our bodies, but must use them as temples of God. And yet we must be careful that we do not make our bodies more than we ought. We must keep our emphasis in proper perspective as opposed to the prevalent emphasis of our day of glori­fying the body. We must remember that no matter what we do to keep fit and trim, our bodies are a living death which will enter the grave and return to the dust.

However, it is not my desire to deal with this subject in my article, but rather use it as an introduction and useful comparison in writing about the subject of exercising ourselves unto godliness. This is a spiritual exercise which also requires a fitness program so that our spiritual muscles do not become soft and flabby.

Spiritual muscle building is not easy. As in physical fitness, it requires a lot of time and effort both on the part of those who lead us and on our own part. Our spiritual training began already in our earliest childhood when our parents taught us that God was our Creator and Sustainer and that He reveals Himself in His Holy Word as our Savior. They sang to us the Psalms and had us memorize them. They sent us to the Christian school and to Catechism where we were in­structed in the truths of God’s Word. As we matured spiritually, our parents taught us the holy art of prayer. By word and example, we were taught how to live the life of the child of God in this wicked world. With all this spiritual instruction, there has come a certain spiritual maturity, so that as we grow older we take more of the responsibility of exercising our spiritual muscles unto godliness. This spiritual exercise is so important that without it we will become spiritually sick, weak and flabby.

Negatively, in our spiritual exercise we must avoid those activities that would tear us down spiritually. We have a nature that loves the delicacies of this sinful world. Its music, its literature, movies and amusements are all there for our lustful, sinful nature to feast its eyes and ears upon. It is against this that we must exercise our spiritual muscles so we can fight against the temptation to indulge in the pleasures of sin for a season.

Also, there are those things which in and of themselves are not necessarily bad, but which if they become the center of our lives and we over-indulge they will become a detriment to our spiritual well-being.

Positively, we must use the means that God has given us to grow spiritually and thereby become spiritually sensitive to godly deeds. Just as we use means to condition our bodies physically, so must we use the means God has given for our spiritual muscle building. In the first place, God has given us His Word in the Scriptures. We cannot know our God unless we study His Word which He gives us as the revelation of Himself. The Word of God is also the lamp unto our feet and the guide to our path. The Scriptures teach us how God would have us to walk as His children. We are told in II Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Therefore, let us make meditation on the Word of God, an important part of our spiritual exercise, so that it will be said of each of us that “his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night” Psalm 1:2. Then the Word of God will be a powerful weapon in our hand as we fight the battle of faith and defend the cause of God.

Exercise is not the only thing we need to stay spiritually fit. We need food for the soul. This we receive when we go to the Lord’s house and receive from His table the meat and drink of the preached Word. Through the lively preaching of His Word, God speaks to us words of admonition, comfort and instruction. We must make every effort to hear the preaching for just as when we neglect the proper physical food we become sick; so, too, when we neglect the spiritual Bread of Life, we become spiritually sick.

Another way we exercise spiritually is when we pray. Prayer is an act of faith whereby we consciously come before our Father in Heaven believing that He will hear and answer our prayer. Jesus himself said “Ask, and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.” What a God we have that we sinners can have the assurance that when we come in prayer our God will hear us. Our exercise of prayer brings us into blessed fellowship and communion with our heavenly Father. The more we exercise the blessedness of prayer, the stronger will be the bond of faith that unites us to God and also it will make us more sensitive to our spiritual needs. Prayer is not easy. It is a Holy art which we must develop through practice and use.

There are other activities which are spiritually very beneficial in which to engage in the sphere of the Church. Although they do not hold the glamour of many of our activities, Societies are nevertheless an important part in spiritual exercise. For here we are given the opportunity to study and share in the discussion of the Word of God. Here among our fellow saints, we can discuss in after recess programs questions of life to which we seek answers. Also there are the Singspirations, Conventions, and many more activities which have their spiritual as well as their physical benefit because here we can experience the blessed fellowship of the saints. They are activities which God has given us for our spiritual edification. We must make use of them willingly and thankfully.

The purpose of all this exercise is that we can grow in godliness. Godliness is a blessed attribute of the Child of God whereby he is always striving to walk as a child of God in this world of sin. This is a spiritual struggle which is fought against all that would hinder us. Unless we have exercised spiritually, we will at best fight a weak and feeble fight. Therefore, we must be much more interested in our spiritual condition than in our physical condition. I am a bit fearful that it is the other way around and that we have our priorities mixed up. We must be in­structed by the Apostle Paul when he wrote in I Timothy 4:7b-8, “and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” If we follow this wisdom of God as He inspired the Apostle, then we will be able to say with the Apostle as he looks back on his life, knowing that he faces certain death, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.” II Timothy 4:7-8.