It Doesn’t Take Long To Get Out Of Shape

            Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to get back into an exercise routine? There have been times that I have been in pretty decent athletic shape and it is amazing how quickly it can go. Sometimes it can even be as short of a time as being sick for a week that throws off your fitness. I was talking to a runner recently who took two weeks off between running seasons and he described just how hard it was to get back to it. The negative side of this reality is that it does take a long time to get back into shape! Good habits and good fitness aren’t easy to develop. The phrase is literally true, “No pain, no gain.”

            Our spiritual growth is often described in terms of exercise or discipline. Many of the same principles apply to getting stronger spiritually. This includes the fact that it doesn’t take much to get out of shape! The week after our gospel meeting I neglected to keep up with my daily Bible reading plan. It took a lot of effort to get back on track and get in the habit of doing that reading. The same has happened to me at times with prayer. Sometimes I have neglected to pray as I ought. The longer this goes on the harder it is to get back into the habit of praying without ceasing. How about you? Have you ever struggled with this? If you haven’t then remain diligent so that you do not! We can grow weary of prayer, study, growth, or doing good works.

            Paul described the effort that it took to remain faithful in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

            Notice a few things about what Paul wrote. First, he ran the race to win. Do you live every day of your Christian life with the final goal in mind? Might I suggest making a list of passages or songs about heaven and considering them daily if you need help with this. Talk about heaven with others. Run to win. Second, Paul practiced great self-control. What are you willing to control to win the prize? I once read an interview from Lance Armstrong where he mentioned for all the years he competed as a cyclist he didn’t consume alcohol. He was willing to give up alcohol to win a race and some Christians have trouble giving up their lifestyle for a much bigger prize. Third, Paul didn’t just work to train others, he trained himself as well. Sometimes we can be so busy doing good things for others that we forget to work on our own spiritual health. This is how even great teachers, preachers, and leaders caught up in a worldly lifestyle. Knowing the rules is not enough; God requires that we personally practice them. How can we really help others properly if we haven’t been working on our own faith?

            I hope that all of us can keep up our pace of spiritual growth. We can keep reading and studying our Bible, growing in faith, and increasing in good works. It will take discipline and effort but the prize is worth it. Failing to exercise on earth has bad consequences but failing to exercise our soul is a matter of life and death.