Last week I wrote about the importance of physical exercise, for weight control and fitness. But while we talk about taking care of our bodies, especially in the wake of weeks of holiday gluttony, we rarely consider the need to exercise our spirits.
Each of us is a complex mix: physical, mental, emotional – and spiritual. The first three facets of our identity receive a lot of our attention, but many of us fail to give much recognition to the latter, if any. However, in Ecclesiastes 3:11 we read, “(God) has also set eternity in the hearts of men.” Like it or not, deep down – maybe in the recesses of our human DNA – God has provided an awareness that we, and this life, are not all there is.
So it’s interesting that as we resolve to work our bodies into submission, pursue intellectual stimulation, and strive to improve attitudes and relationships, our spiritual side suffers from neglect – to the point of atrophy.
As 1 Timothy 4:8 points out, "Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come" (New Living Translation).
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That sounds good, but even as professing followers of Jesus we tend to think an hour of institutional church activity suffices for spiritual health. But it’s not about religion – it’s about relationship, getting to know the God of all creation who desires to spend time with us.
I’m not one that believes in ritualistically or legalistically reading the Bible each day. But we know from experience that to strengthen relationships – with our spouse, children, or friends – it takes time. The same is true in cultivating a strong, growing relationship with God. There is no substitute for time, ideally on a daily basis.
How much time? I don’t know – certainly more than a minute. Years ago a friend, Robert Foster, wrote a little booklet called “7 Minutes a Day With God” (it’s still is published by The Navigators). In essence, he suggested, anyone can set aside that much time – a couple of minutes in prayer, a few minutes in the Scriptures, and a few moments in meditation. The kicker, he noted, is if you diligently devote just seven minutes a day to doing that, you’ll soon discover it’s not enough.
Early in my days as a disciple of Christ, I also learned what The Navigators called “the hand illustration” to show how to gain a deeper understanding of the Bible. Each finger on the hand represents a different aspect: Listening; reading; studying; memorizing; and meditating. Through the years, I’ve found all of these useful, not only for understanding what the Bible says, but also for discovering who God really is – and who, as one of His adopted children, I am.
So as you’re thinking about working out to get into better shape physically, reading more widely to grow mentally, and seeking to enhance your life emotionally, don’t let your spiritual side suffer. You owe it to yourself!