|Standup paddleboarding has become a fitness favorite in many |
parts of the world. Here two people paddle their boards near the
historic Delta Queen steamboat in Chattanooga, Tenn.
If talk and intentions equated to physical conditioning, the United States would become the fittest nation in the history of mankind.
There have been enough books written about diets to fill the libraries of many small towns, not to mention diet and fitness videos. Fitness centers of all types seem to be popping up on every corner, ranging from the casual, come-whenever-you-like variety to women-only facilities to YMCAs to hard-core camps designed for aspiring Navy SEALS. There are even programs to conveniently fit your lunch hour or unorthodox work schedule, so you can flex on your flex-time.
Do you like competitive events? You can choose from fun walks and runs to mud runs to marathons to triathlons, including the Ironman. There’s mountain climbing, repelling, hiking, rowing, and just about anything you can imagine using a board, from surfing to skateboarding to gliding over and through the snow. Pick your poison. In reality, if you’re out of shape, you have no one to blame but yourself.
The same applies increasingly to training the mind: Mental fitness. With fears of Alzheimer’s, dementia and similar disabilities looming, particularly as we grow older, all manner of strategies have been developed to “exercise” our gray matter. For a long time we’ve had crossword puzzles, anagrams, riddles and word-finds, and now we’ve also got Sudoku, computer games, smart phone apps like Lumosity, and an ever-growing assortment of other helpful tools.
So how many words and facts and memories can you “bench-press”?
We spend a lot of time trying to shape and tone our bodies and minds – at least we plan to do that. But how much time and effort do we devote to spiritual training? As the Bible wisely points out, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, building promises for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).
That’s not to disparage the value of physical fitness, exercise, proper eating and other means for getting and staying healthy. After all, the Scriptures tell us, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him, for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Good reason for keeping our “temples” properly maintained.
But in addition to being physical, intellectual and emotional beings, we’re also spiritual in one respect or another. To deny that is to ignore an important facet of who we are and what we become. Ecclesiastes 3:11 states God has, “also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” God wants us to know this life is not the end, but merely a “preview of coming attractions,” so to speak.
What should a spiritual fitness regimen look like? Some might endorse rigid rules and regulations, but what the Lord describes in the Scriptures is a daily, continual relationship. For instance, we’re told to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Rather than waiting for a specific time, place and posture to talk with God, we can remain in constant contact with Him – at work or at school (no separation of church and state from His point of view), in an intense business meeting, in the car, on a playing field, or in the midst of a picnic with family and friends.
It’s curious that the Bible is regarded the least-read bestseller among all books. This isn’t the way God intends, as He repeats throughout the Old and New testaments. Bibles aren’t designed to take up bookshelf space. The truths they contain are to fill our minds and prepare us for the rigors and challenges of daily living.
For instance, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you will be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8). Study it, think about it – and think about it some more. Then act on it.
The Scriptures also admonish disciples of Jesus to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Later in the same passage it states, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man (and woman) of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
In the Psalms we find this advice that applies to every person professing to know and follow Christ: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word…. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:9-11).
Aiming for physical fitness and the proper weight? Great. Wanting to keep your mind sharp as long as you have breath? Excellent. But if you’re not diligently pursuing spiritual fitness, in ways such as described above, you might be neglecting the most important facet of all.