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Spiritual Fitness

Originally published Tuesday, 24 June 2014.

It's humbling to realize that you are not as strong as you think you are. Or that you don't have the endurance you thought you had. Do you know that feeling?

We've been on vacation in Georgia these last few weeks and because we have two boys, we keep very busy. One day we went to an indoor rock climbing place. It didn't take too long before we were all spent and exhausted. You don't realize how strong you have to be to climb those walls until you are hanging there trying to muster up the strength to reach out for the next handhold. And truth be told, my arms are weak. I said to my husband that the little dumbbells I use at home just aren't doing the job.

I had the same thought when we went on a hike to the bottom of a mountain gorge. And then hiked back up. There were 1,099 steps in all. (And no, I didn't count them:) I just read the sign.) My legs were wobbly and my lungs weren't too happy with me either. I quickly realized that the exercise routine I do at home isn't challenging me enough either.

Here's the thing that I'm sure those of you who lift weights or train for a certain sport know, we have to keep pushing past where we've gotten or our body will adapt and consume less energy doing the same exercise. Our body can plateau and we don't get the same results we had at first. That's why once we get used to lifting a certain number of pounds, we have to lift more. Once we can run a mile, we need to start running two. We have to keep pushing our body to do more.

The same is true with spiritual fitness as well. It's easy to grow comfortable with our spiritual routines. There are certain books of the Bible we know our way around so well that we always end up there during our quiet times. Our prayers are rote and follow the same format, day in and day out. We've stopped stretching our spiritual muscles and have grown flabby.

Sometimes we can get to a point where we think we know all we need to know about Scripture and we are content to stay where we are. And then we sit in a sermon where the pastor pushes us into unknown territory and we can't keep up. We feel sluggish just listening to him and can't stay focused on what he is saying. We leave thinking that the pastor isn't good at his job, but maybe it's just that the spiritual diet we've become accustomed to has made us weak. We want to keep drinking infants milk but our body has grown and needs more nourishment. "For everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil" (Hebrews 5:13-14).

Spiritual laziness. We are all prone to it. Especially this time of year. Our schedules are different. The kids are home from school. We are traveling here and there. We spend days at the lake or beside the ocean. We get to sleep in later. As the summer wears on, there just doesn't seem to be time for prayer and studying God's word. Or when we do, it's half hearted. Before we know it, half way through the summer, our spiritual muscles have gotten weak and out of shape.

Paul wrote, "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). Training our bodies and keeping them healthy is good. But spiritual fitness has eternal value.

Know this, you cannot ever know all there is to know about God. You cannot run out of things to learn. You will never be stretched spiritually beyond capacity. So don't be content with where you are. Always seek to move beyond where you are now. Read more. Memorize more. Pray more. Seek more of God.

This summer, don't get spiritually lazy. Study a book of the Bible you aren't as familiar with as others. Stretch your mind and heart by reading a book that is on a Biblical topic you know nothing about. Use that time by the pool to pray. Meditate on Scripture and dwell on the goodness of God for you in Christ Jesus. Make it your goal to know more of God.

We aren't guaranteed marathon trophies and we won't always win every game or athletic competition, but when we seek to know God, we are guaranteed to find what we seek. For he promises that those who seek him will find him. "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).

And that's a fitness goal worth aiming for, don't you think?