Spiritual Fitness

A few weeks ago I spoke a message entitled A Message for CityLife Church (October 7-8th). This message included some commendations for our church – friendliness, servant spirit and generosity – as well as some challenges – outreach, spiritual fitness and moving to the next level of ministry. Today we want to pick up this challenge of increasing our spiritual fitness for the coming season.

What does it mean to be ‘fit’? In the natural, fitness refers to a state of health and wellbeing that enables us to live life to the fullest. Health and fitness give us energy and the ability to live out our life purpose with passion. Health and fitness are the result of habits of living, including:

  1. Eating healthy foods - have a healthy balanced diet. What we take into our body – what we eat, when we eat and how much we eat – dramatically affects our health. Simple wise choices in diet can give 35-50% extra energy and can increase a person’s life span. Poor choices in these areas take a severe toll on not only the quantity and quality of energy available, but also on a person’s focus and motivation. 
  2. Exercising regularly - engage regularly in physical activity. Regular exercise has been proven to increase physical, mental and emotional health and performance. 

Spiritual fitness is very similar. It is a state of health and wellbeing that enables us to live life fully engaged with God and fully engaged with people – a life characterised by love, peace and joy. Spiritual vitality and fitness are the result of some habits of living, including:

  1. Feeding on the right things – a good spiritual diet. What we take into our heart and mind dramatically affects our spiritual healthy and well being. 
  2. Putting God’s instructions into practice – we need exercise. We are called to be ‘doers’ of God’s word, busy ‘doing’ good works for the benefits of others. 

Last year in our series on the Normal Christian Life, we spoke about the importance of ‘spiritual disciplines’ – things such as prayer, the Bible, celebration, fellowship, serving, as well things like solitude, fasting and secrecy. Paul told Timothy to ‘train’ himself to be godly (1 Tim.4:6-9). Notice he didn’t say ‘try’ to be godly. Trying only gets you so far. However, a life of training will enable you to do things that you could not do by will power alone.

We also learnt that act of doing various spiritual disciplines is not the indicator of spirituality or maturity. It is the fact that they position us to experience the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. What really matters is not how many exercises we are doing or how long we do them – BUT the kind of person we are becoming. Are we becoming more loving, more joyful and more patient?

Are we overcoming temptation and ridding ourselves of bad habits? These are the marks of spiritual health and fitness.

So, we see that God wants each one of us to be healthy and strong, not only physically and emotionally, but most importantly, spiritually. Like Jesus, we can be ‘strong in spirit’ so that we are more than ready to handle the daily demands and pressures of life. However, this requires a commitment to certain disciplines and practices.

Our Daily Bread 

When tempted by the devil Jesus quoted an Old Testament Scripture and said …

Matt.4:4. People need more than bread for their life; they must feed on every word of God. NLT.

God’s Word, as revealed in the Bible, is to be our ‘daily bread’. In the same way that we need food every day to be healthy and strong so we need to daily feed upon God’s Word to us. Then as we apply it to our lives we are adding exercise to healthy food, which results in good health and spiritual fitness.

The Uniqueness of the Bible
 
The Bible is totally unique. It is different from all other books, having no like or equal.

  1. In its composition. It was written over a period of 1600 years by 40 different authors and in three different languages yet it speaks with a common voice. It has an internal consistency and theme that is nothing short of amazing. 
  2. In its circulation. It is the most published book in history. It has been at the top of the best seller list yearly for 200-300 years. Billions of copies of this book have been printed over the years and millions continue to sell year after year. 
  3. In its translation. The Bible has been translated into over 1000 different languages and many more are on the way. No book comes close to this. 
  4. In its reliability. We hold in our hands the Word of God, a revelation of his character, his purpose and principles for right living. It is inspired by the Holy Spirit and has been miraculously preserved through the years of copying and translation so that we can be sure of its trustworthiness and reliability. 
  5. In its durability. The Bible has survived bans and burnings, ridicule and criticism by opponents. It lives on. People have risked their lives to continue to spread Bibles where they have been banned. 
  6. In its effect. It has a depth that causes people to never finish reading it. They want to keep reading it over and you keep seeing new things. People have multiple copies. They study it and carry it around. What people learn transforms their lives and values. 

The Impact of God’s Word 

The Bible has had an incredible impact on people’s lives. Even the Bible itself states the importance and power of the Word of God (read Josh.1:7-9. Ps.1:1-3; 119:99. 1 Cor.10:11. Col.3:16. 2 Tim. 3:14-17. Heb.4:12). Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:31-32. NKJV)” and “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life (John.6:63. NIV).” 
All of these promises only come to those who read, study, think about (meditate) and obey God’s words to us as recorded in the Bible.

Many Christians have no Bible or only small portions of it. We have so many (!) yet do we value it? Imagine the difference in your life if you could feed daily on the wisdom of the ages! God’s words are alive and powerful, able to not only feed your soul, but to renew your thinking and to give you insight for every aspect of your life and ministry.

Sample Discussion Questions 

  1. Have people share their favourite Bible verse (or passage or story) and the impact it has had on their life. 
  2. Mark shared a number of stories of how the Bible had impacted people’s lives through history. Share a story of someone you know whose life has been changed by reading God’s Word in the Bible. 
  3. Discuss what your group thinks is the general public’s opinion about the Bible today and whether their perspective is valid (e.g. is it just ‘fiction’, is it full of errors, etc). 
  4. Ask people to share how they are doing in the discipline of Bible reading. Are they: (1) a regular reader - ‘daily’, (2) an occasional reader - ‘weekly’ or (3) a rare reader - ‘hardly ever or not at all’. Honesty is important as all change begins with defining reality. Once you’ve accurately determined where you are now, then you can think about where you’d like to be. 
  5. Discuss some of the challenges or obstacles that work against the habit of Bible reading. Some may include – time pressures (we’re so busy), distractions (there are many other things competing for our attention), lack of understanding (not knowing what the Bible means or how it applies to us today), etc.
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