Spiritual Training

Dear Friends,

Over the past few months I've been having trouble with a frozen shoulder.  This has caused my movements to become more and more restricted.  I have difficulty doing simple things that I've always taken for granted, such as washing my hair. The pain at times has been unbearable.

My Doctor has given me two steroid injections and some physiotherapy exercises which have to be done two to three times a day.

Now, I know these exercises look strange - if I do them in front of my family I become a source of much amusement!  (I'm so glad I can bring some joy in to their lives.)  However, I don't find the exercises enjoyable, they are painful and tedious.  But I am determined to persevere in them because in the end it will be worth it.  My shoulder will be restored and I will be able to function normally once more with no pain.  The consequence of not persevering would mean more pain, muscle weakness and a restricted life.  So I persevere with the exercises.

As I do these exercises I'm reminded of what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run [their very best to win], but only one receives the prize? Run [your race] in such a way that you may seize the prize and make it yours! 25 Now every athlete who [goes into training and] competes in the games is disciplined and exercises self-control in all things. They do it to win a crown that withers, but we [do it to receive] an imperishable [crown that cannot wither]. 26 Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing]. 27 But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service]. (AMP)

Paul is using the example of an athlete's training to relate to our Christian life.  An athlete is disciplined and consistent in his training, he exercises self-control, develops good habits, for example where food is concerned and how he spends his time.  He is focused on his goal and shows determination and perseverance.  He knows the purpose behind his training.  The reason why he trains makes it all worth while.

Living the Christian life is also about discipline, self-control, determination, perseverance and laying aside our own interests to pursue the goal.

We can tend to have a negative view of the word "discipline" - it's linked to being told what to do by someone in authority, having to do something we don't want to do, a punishment, hard work etc.

However, when it comes to our Christian life, I don't believe that discipline is to be understood in the same way.   Spiritual discipline is more about our motives.  Our love for God motivates us to exercise discipline. Although we are motived by love and have the desire, this in itself is not enough to maintain or progress in our training.  

Jesus knew this and that's why he has given each of us the gift of his Spirit who gives us the supernatural power we need. We work in partnership with him.  If we have the will (the desire) the Holy Spirit provides the way (the power).  Some people today will pay a personal trainer in their pursuit of physical fitness.  We also have our own personal trainer - he's the Holy Spirit.

So what are the spiritual exercises we need to regularly practice?  They are such things as reading and meditating on God's Word, prayer, worship, service and more.  If we are to be spiritually fit it's not enough just to train on a Sunday morning, a once a week exercise, or even just exercise once a day.  They are things we need to exercise through the day.  We will then reap the benefits, just as doing my physio exercises need to be done several times a day so that my body will reap the benefits.  The more we train, the better life will be.

You may like to look at different spiritual disciplines over the coming weeks.  Why not spend a week on one discipline, considering how to put it in to practice so that it becomes a regular habit.  Then when you feel ready move on to another discipline. 

So we develop habits and behaviours which aid us in our spiritual growth.  The purpose is to draw closer to God and grow more like Jesus. It's the goal of every disciple (follower) of Jesus to become more like their teacher.  We do this by imitating him.  Jesus said in Luke 6:40 "Students are not greater than their teacher.  But the student who is fully trained will become like their teacher." (NLT) 

Paul not only practised discipline and was purposeful in his training, he encouraged others to do the same.  "On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness [keeping yourself spiritually fit].  For physical training is of some value, but godliness (spiritual training) is of value in everything and in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and for the life to come."  1 Timothy 4:7b-8 (AMP)

To Think About:
Meditate on 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.  How does the example Paul use relate to your Christian life?  What do you learn from this?

How spiritually fit are you? In what areas do you lack self-control and determination?  What can you do about this?  Which spiritual discipline would you like to start with as the first step in your spiritual training?

From a spiritual perspective do you train with purpose and keep focused on your goal?



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