Exercise & Your Heart

Posted on March 8, 2011 by

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In 1 Timothy 4, the apostle Paul compares exercising ourselves spiritually for spiritual growth to the kind of exercise an athlete or a body-builder would do. Here’s what he says:

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1Ti 4:7-8)

Generally, this passage is taught to mean that spiritual training and fitness is more important than physical training and fitness – and it is. But too often we miss the point of the analogy Paul is using. He’s saying, “Timothy, your spiritual fitness is increased in the same ways that your physical fitness is increased. You need to train yourself as an athlete for Christ to be ready for ministry, just like the earthly athlete trains himself for an earthly challenge.”

I’m not a body-builder by any stretch of the imagination, but I do enjoy regular exercise. Most weekday mornings you can find me at the gym. Here are just a few of the ways that our spiritual training needs to mirror our physical exercise:

  • An athlete needs discipline. No measure of physical or spiritual fitness has ever been obtained by haphazard exercise or devotion.
  • An athlete needs focus on the right things. If your outlook on physical health is that you should run ten minutes on the treadmill and then eat a gallon of ice cream, then all the discipline in the world probably isn’t going to help. Similarly, if you spend all of your time focused on “silly myths” (as Paul calls them) – theological rabbit trails that take your focus off of Christ – your spiritual discipline and devotion will be in vain.
  • An athlete needs help. For myself, I never would have had the desire, the gumption, or the necessary knowledge to get serious about my physical fitness without the steady motivation and coaching of Matt the Navy Rescue Swimmer. I need someone to push me to perform, because when left to myself I revert to laziness. In your spiritual life you need an accountability partner. Not someone else whose life is as jacked up as yours is – someone who walks with the Lord daily and can guide you, help you, encourage you, and reprove you as you walk the same road together.
  • An athlete needs good nutrition. In the same way, if you are going to train for ministry you need to make sure that you are feeding yourself daily with the Word – and being fed the Word by godly teachers as often as possible.
  • An athlete needs goals. Whether physical or spiritual, you should constantly have clearly-defined fitness goals towards which to strive. Specific goals will help you know which “exercises” are profitable and which are a waste of time.
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Posted in: food for thought