I played football in junior high and high school. I quit after my junior season because of an ankle injury and poor coaching. I do miss it sometimes. But one big takeaway from my time playing football was an understanding of weight lifting.
We all know, deep down, what we need to do to get in good physical shape. Everybody now: Eat right and exercise! We all know it. But how many of us do either one well on a consistent basis? Yeah, me neither. That’s why routines and habits are so important (at least to most of us).
The fitness industry is a multi-billion dollar per year industry. There’s always a new diet fad or workout regiment guaranteeing results – EASY, FAST, CHEAP results. But the results “may vary” and definitely won’t last. Unless it becomes a lifestyle.
I see a lot of connections between physical fitness and spiritual fitness. We’re always looking for a shortcut to getting “in shape.” But in the end we are left feeling worse about ourselves than before. We want someone else to do the hard work while we simply coast through. We go to the gym a couple times, eat an occasional salad, and we think we’re gonna get fit. OR we go to church a couple times, pray when we remember, follow a couple Christian Instagram accounts and think we’re good in our relationship with God.
Many of us spend time and resources to help keep our bodies physically healthy. But how often do we invest in our spiritual health?
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:8)
We may be walking through life feeling spiritually malnourished and weak. But it doesn’t have to be that way! With some intentional training we can become more effective and productive in our faith, and the results will last into eternity.
EVERYTHING WE NEED
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His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
Peter begins his second letter by reminding us of everything we already have. If you are a follower of Christ then you already have everything you need to live a godly life. You have all the tools to succeed in your faith. And we’re not just talking about the Bible. We’re talking about God’s Spirit which lives in you. We’re talking about the fellowship of believers and the hope of eternal life. We’re talking about participating in the very divine nature of God.
It’s like walking into a state-of-the-art athletic training facility with your own personal trainer and nutrition expert. God wants you to succeed.
THE CORE VIRTUES
Every good weight training program will most likely focus on six or seven key lifts, including bench press, military press, bicep curls, barbell rows, power clean, squat, and deadlift. If you master the techniques and increase your weight load on each of these lifts, then you will have an overall stronger body. There are a lot of auxiliary lifts, but these core lifts are a good standard of physical fitness.
But what about in our spiritual life? Peter lays out some core virtues on which our walk with Christ should center:
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. (2 Peter 1:5-9)
Just like any good weight program will focus on certain core lifts, so the life of a Christ-follower should focus on these certain core virtues: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love.
And notice that while these all build off each other, we are to develop each one “in increasing measure.” We wouldn’t want to focus on bench press and bicep curls to the neglect of squats. We should work to develop all our major muscle groups simultaneously. So it is with the virtues. We shouldn’t develop knowledge and self-control to the neglect of goodness or love.
So what if we could develop a Discipleship Training Program that works to develop all of our “spiritual muscle groups” together, to get stronger, to become more and more like the men and women Christ calls us to be? What if we actually put in the time and effort to grow in our relationship with God like we do to grow our arm circumference?
Over the next few weeks we are going to learn ways to train for an effective and productive spiritual life. We are going to look at how to live out and strengthen each of these virtues just as we would with the core lifts.
And it all begins with FAITH.