Spiritual Workouts for Empowered Living
Discipline for Spiritual Growth – Five exercises to build your spiritual muscles.
by Cheri Strahm
“I’m beginning to think it’s impossible to live a successful Christian life!” Jennifer exclaimed after a long, stressful day. “I get so discouraged. When I worship with other believers, I feel joyful and right with God. Then a new week begins with work, kids, problems, and ‘poof!’ – I’m back to the old Jennifer. Why can’t I stay spiritually strong?”
Most Christians experience spiritual weakness at times. It creeps up on us. Our zest to obey and serve God fades, and suddenly we realize we are spiritually “flabby.” Although we long for daily victory, we lack the strength to maintain a faithful walk with God.
God’s Word says in Eph. 6:10, “Be strong in the Lord” and encourages us not to lose heart. Spiritual muscles can be retrained. We can live a transformed, victorious Holy Spirit filled life day after day.
Like Jennifer, I, too, fell prey to the fitness problem. In the midst of hectic ministry, I lost enthusiasm for a daily, intimate walk with God. I was out of shape and gradually growing weaker. Then one morning I awoke with a hopeless feeling of despair. It wasn’t my body, but my soul that needed restoring.
I began to search the Bible for answers. Weren’t there other people like me, once close to God, who became spiritually unfit? I looked at Elijah, strong prophet of God, who under pressure began to doubt and complain. I found that David often felt spiritually bankrupt and cried out to God in distress. There was also Isaiah, Jonah, Joshua, Jeremiah, and Moses. Many of God’s most powerful servants suffered times of spiritual weakness. God told Joshua, “Do not be terrified; don’t be discouraged…for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9). God hadn’t left me alone and helpless. I had drifted away from Him into spiritual lethargy.
At the time of my spiritual weakness I was on a weight loss program, so I decided to apply the same principles to my spiritual life. Just as I kept a diet journal to trace my eating habits, I began to trace my “life habits.” I noted times of spiritual victory and times of defeat. I was able to track Satan’s successful techniques to weaken me. How humiliating to discover that when our children got rambunctious, my temper flared! When too many people phoned on a busy day, I lost patience and felt critical. On the other hand, when I began my day with prayer, listened to Christian music, and took quiet time with God’s Word, I experienced more fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, and patience.
I realized my biggest need: self-discipline. Over a period of years I collected spiritual “exercises” to help myself keep fit and strong. I discovered it is possible to develop discipline gradually, just as body muscle can be built by lifting weights until strength is acquired. Our spirit can be continually renewed as years pass: it experiences no “aging” if faith and self-discipline are allowed to develop.
Remember my friend Jennifer, who felt despair in her lack of success as a Christian? She realized how powerless her spiritual life had become, and took steps to become more disciplined.
You may be thinking, “This seems like a lot of work.” The Apostle Paul used that exact word in Philippians 2:12: “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” As in any discipline – dieting, exercise, study – success requires our best effort. As your spiritual muscle develops, the effort will gradually seem more “natural” to you and not so difficult. Why? Verse 13 in Philippians 2 says: “…it is God who works in you…” God will energize you to do what pleases Him.
Set spiritual goals for the next month or year, and track those goals carefully. You will clearly see the Holy Spirit’s transforming power in your life as you become strong in Him.
The following are some spiritual exercises, with specific steps to help make them successful:
Determine To Know God More Intimately
Collect Books, Quotes, And Music That Encourages You
Mentor Someone Younger In The Faith
Develop A Deeper Prayer Life
Make Sharing Christ With Others Part Of Your Lifestyle