It’s football season – that time of year when 50,000 or 100,000 spectators desperately in need of exercise sit for hours watching 30 or so fit athletes desperately in need of rest. But somehow the running, tackling, and throwing by those 30 never seems to rub off on the 100,000.
I have nothing against football, but being a fan will not improve your health and wellbeing one bit! And neither will being a spiritual spectator. Lazy Christians are in grave danger of losing strength and fitness. That’s you – unless you start engaging in your own spiritual exercise.
Just yesterday during a prayer group I’m a part of a pastor became desperate as she cried out to God about the social-club playing-church entitlement mentality too many believers display. Our pastors, our leaders, cannot do our fighting for us! They cannot grow your character, protect you from the enemy’s attacks, influence the world around you, or fulfill the mission God has given you to do.
To switch metaphors, in a war the generals don’t do the front-line fighting; the soldiers do. And in the spiritual battle for your soul, your family, your future, or your nation, your spiritual leaders cannot do the fighting that only you can do. Your spiritual leaders have a great responsibility in their roles. But you cannot expect to find healing, purpose, joy, or victory unless YOU strap on your sword – or your running shoes.
In the United States we’re in the middle of perhaps the most contentious and important election our country has yet seen. And for those of us who care about the kingdom of God, we dare not let the news cycle or the overwhelm dissolve us into the apathy of a spectator sport.
5 Ways to get your Spiritual Exercise
For your physical health you need moderately intense physical exercise alternating with periods of rest and renewal. It’s the same with your spiritual health.
You cannot remain at a high intensity of spiritual warfare indefinitely without periods of refreshment. But the vast majority of Christians in our culture are in no danger of spiritual burnout or overwork! We’re in much more danger of being spiritual couch potatoes waiting for someone else to do our running or our fighting for us.
And you cannot get nearly the same benefit from someone else’s spiritual victory as you can from experiencing it for yourself. Tweet that.
Here are a few ways to get your spiritual exercise that will help you maintain – and grow – your level of fitness and impact.
Maintain your own spiritual disciplines.
You can’t be ready for the big stuff unless you have become proficient with the basics. You won’t run a marathon until you’ve run a 5K. You won’t win a big spiritual battle until you learn how to use the weapons.
The benefits of disciplined regular daily prayer, daily Bible reading and study, and other disciplines such as fasting, quietude, etc. is not that they make you holy. It’s that they help you grow and keep your spiritual muscles toned and your perception sharp. Making spiritual disciplines a daily part of your life may not feel useful right now, but they will be indispensable in the future struggles you will face.
Give God permission to grow your character.
Our spiritual growth is not likely to be complete this side of heaven. God loves you just the way you are, and He can use you right now. But He also loves you too much to leave you in your current condition. He needs you mature, trained, and ready to take action.
If you give Him permission, the Holy Spirit will continue to put His finger on places in your heart or life and say, “This right here; let Me have it. I want to change you here!” When He does that, pay attention. Listen! And let Him grow your character.
Stay connected with other growing believers.
Soldiers, police officers, and other front-line responders usually go out with a partner or a team. The quality of the people you hang around with will help determine your spiritual fitness, and your success when you face tough stuff.
Don’t only look for people who see the world just like you do. Look for people who are serious about their own spiritual growth. Intentionally join with others who refuse to be simply spectators, and begin doing life with them. You can encourage and stimulate each other in ways you cannot do alone.
Pay attention to the spiritual conditions around you.
Learn to pause and consider, “What’s really going on here?” There’s always “news behind the news.” Train yourself to be alert to the spiritual conditions and forces that are behind the sometimes confusing and violent situations in your own life, your family, or your world.
When you feel overwhelmed, a good prayer to consider is, “God, show me the spiritual forces behind what I see happening. Help me perceive what’s really going on, and what this means for Your kingdom.” The inner strength that perspective can give you will pay off richly.
Regularly ask God what He wants YOU to do about things.
Have you ever wrestled in prayer over a problem in your marriage, your health, your family, your church, your town? Have you ever felt the pain of abused women, hurting children, those in poverty, or some other troubled group of people, and asked God to help them?
And then have you heard God say, “Now what are you going to do about it?” Tweet that.
It’s always right to pray about a problem whether there’s something you can do about it or not. But then there comes a time when David and Jonathan have to scale the mountain to take out the evil army holding the crest. Elijah has to stand before a nation given over to worshiping idols and pray fire down from heaven. The disciples have to bring the fish and loaves to Jesus and distribute the resulting food to the multitude.
There’s almost always something God wants YOU to do about it!
That may mean you go and vote. Or you make a phone call. Donate to a church or other organization. Volunteer with others offering practical help. Take – or teach – a class. Write an article. Run for office. Take a business risk. Create a new initiative. Offer forgiveness to someone who hurt you. In some way get out of your comfortable prayer closet and take action!
Keeping your spiritual muscles toned and fit will prevent you from being one of the lazy Christians.
It’s faith that works. Prayer and action. Not as a means of salvation, but as a pathway to spiritual maturity.
Let’s keep fit with regular spiritual exercise![reminder]Have you been a spiritual spectator in some way? How might you take another step to engage in spiritual exercise?[/reminder]
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