Recently, I have met some very dedicated and disciplined people in the sphere of health and fitness. The dedication and discipline of these friends inspired me to start running again, along with the conviction of the Holy Spirit to take care of my body. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
Starting to run was hard. “Hard” is actually too weak of a description…
I used to run regularly and I loved running.
This was years ago. Before I had my precious children and the busy life schedule that comes with responsibilities of a wife, a mother, and working as a nurse.
If I had started with an expectation that I would be able to run even one mile the first day I set my feet outdoors, I would be extremely disappointed. And rightly so!
This would be an unrealistic expectation and one that would probably lead to failure.
I am not a fitness expert. Just a woman with some experience and common sense to know that any positive and established behavior takes patience, perseverance, and plain discipline.
I needed to take the first steps.
Small but consistent steps.
Starting off running, the first few days were the most difficult. I literally had to prepare myself mentally even for the act of stepping out of the house.
However, that’s all I needed: To take those first steps.
I couldn’t even run a mile yet. But I was walking. Then running half a mile. Then one mile. Two. Three. And I loved it…
Now a missed day feels like something is missing. And I crave it. With joy, I put on my running shoes and run.
How does this have anything to do with my soul, you may ask?
Apostle Paul compares spiritual endurance to physical endurance and running a race (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
Although I am not running any marathons or triathlons yet, if I did, I would have to dedicate myself to weeks of training.
Without physical discipline, I cannot expect to run even a small race. I simply would not finish!
So, how can I run the most important race in my life and expect to finish it with a reward (James 1:12), if I am not disciplining myself spiritually?
Praying, fasting, reading God’s Word – all of these make up spiritual discipline.
I remember how I used to pray a quick prayer, while succumbing to sleep after an exhausting day. “Lord, tomorrow I will read your Word first thing in the morning. I will wake up before my kids do, so I can spend some time with you.”
Just as days turned into weeks and weeks into months, full of promises of “I will run tomorrow,” so did the months go by with promises of “I will spend some time with my Father tomorrow.”
See, I had to dedicate time for physical training. Just as I had to rearrange my priorities and my schedule to incorporate physical exercise, I had to set aside time for spiritual exercise.
The first few days were a struggle. I huffed and puffed, barely able to run half a mile. I had thoughts of quitting. A thought of “you will never be able to run even one mile the way you are going” was hard to overcome.
But as I kept pressing in, as I kept being consistent, I saw encouraging results.
A similar occurrence happened when I began to train for my life’s race as a Christian, acquiring spiritual endurance. I had to take the first steps. I had to make time for reading God’s Word and praying. I had to set aside days for fasting.
While the first few days were a struggle, (the enemy really doesn’t like us to be spiritually enduring), every day the struggle was diminishing until I began craving the spiritual exercise. I came to a place where I craved the fellowship with my Father. I craved the healthy spiritual food. I couldn’t go a day without it!
If I neglect physical exercise for a few days, I can see the damage right away. I can’t run the three miles anymore. I deteriorate.
The same happens with spiritual endurance. One day missed and I become more weak. The enemy creeps in, offering sugar-coated pastries and “just one cheat-day. Just one compromise.”
While struggling to continue the spiritual discipline, I was studying the book of James, and came to this wonderful and timely passage:
“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us?’ But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:4-9)
“For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8
Spiritual discipline is CRUCIAL for finishing the most important race of your life.
Are you devoting as much time to spiritual discipline as you do to physical training?
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