Get Moving…into Spiritual Fitness

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There was sweat pouring and pooling on and around the collar of my workout shirt. It hadn’t taken me long to break a sweat. ‘Is that normal?’ I wondered to myself as I continued to pump my legs up and down as I strained towards another invisible incline on the elliptical machine. I stared straight ahead, bored to tears at the lack of scenery in my living room all the while motivational ‘cardio’ music pumped through my earphones. ‘Don’t look down’ I kept saying to myself, ‘don’t look down’. One would imagine I was walking a tightrope a thousand feet in the air if they had heard my mantra. Yet my eye inevitably looked down upon the elliptical machine’s work out clock…I still had plenty of time yet to complete. My work out was far from over. I groaned.

Scolding myself for looking down again, I tuned into the music which pumped out another fast rhythmic beat. I matched the rhythm with my strides on the elliptical. I was determined to make it over the next incline. I gritted my teeth and pushed through the discomfort and the screaming protests of my muscles. The effort would be worth it, I kept telling myself. There was a goal in mind, to lose weight to feel healthier and to live a longer more productive life. I knew that there would be miles and a miles of invisible inclines to go but my goal was worth the sweat and tears. My goal would payoff in the end.

It got me thinking. Isn’t that the image that we get when the Apostle Paul talked about running and about the prize of eternal life?

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Check this out:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” -1 Corinthians 9:24

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 3:14

Application:
The Apostle Paul, a former persecutor of Christians, humbly and openly admitted that he was not there yet. He hadn’t crested that imaginary incline of faith. He knew that there was still work to be done within his life. He still was lacking and coming up out of breath spiritually. Yet his short comings were not going to deter him from seeking and attaining his goal.

What is your goal? What are you striving to become within God’s kingdom? Are you serious about your pursuit of personal holiness? Are you committed to that seemingly invisible incline of faith? God doesn’t want to leave us (nor will He) at the Altar of our initial sanctification (our salvation story)! His Holy Spirit wants to do a work within us. An amazing work within us! He wants us 100% committed to Him for His purpose and mission! But we have to be willing to move from spiritual infancy to a deeper more lasting spiritual maturity. This move takes place when we get serious about our relationship to Christ. It’s deeply personal and only we can make the decision to move. The Holy Spirit will prompt, prod and even convict us but we are the ones who have to make the conscientious decision to get up and move. There will be sweat and sacrifice, of that we can be sure of. Yet if we make the move, we begin to tap into the very power of the Holy Spirit who can help us and sustain us in this discipline of holiness.

What are your personal goals as a Christ-follower? There is a purpose for each of us as fellow sojourners. God does not want us to settle for mediocrity in our faith. Nor does He want us to become out of shape (spiritually), lazy and without missional purpose. There is so much more He wants of us, but in order to accomplish anything for Him, we have to have the right priorities in place in our lives.

Prioritizing Spiritual Fitness:
These priorities begin with our daily spiritual workout. That spiritual workout consists of our daily even moment by moment conversations with God. How can we train, how can we run in this faith without first being plugged into the very source of our hope and salvation? A daily discipline of feasting on the word of God, coupled with our prayerful conversations with Him will set us in the right direction of forward progress in our personal and spiritual growth. Without these two main components placed as top priority in our lives, we face the possibility of becoming utterly lost in our jumbled world which could be full of empty pursuits. The Holy Spirit can shape us and mold us, if we allow Him to, but it takes effort and willingness on our part. We have to be available and willing to move.

Are you ready to work out? Are you prepared to sweat and strain for the goal of being Christ-like in your life? Then it’s time to get up and move. Don’t ignore the Holy Spirit’s promptings in your life, He wants to complete that work in you…are you willing? Are you ready? Let’s go.

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“Get Off Of Your Laurels!”

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Nothing wilts faster than laurels that have been rested upon.” –Percy Bysshe Shelly

The hero takes the stage as the crowd explodes into cheerful celebration.  After grueling torment and near defeat, the hero stands alone from the rest of the competition.  He has defeated his adversaries masterfully and now he is crowned with a laurel wreath on his head and the affections of the crowd.  He is their champion and hero. 

But what happens to many champions after victories such as these?  What becomes of them?  Some continue to strive for excellence and gain victories again and again, while others stumble and fall upon their pride and face humiliating defeats later on. 

Dare I say it is what happens after the victory that matter most!  In the Christian world we face temptations on all sides.  We experience real spiritual warfare for our souls.  Sometimes we go to revival meetings, camps, youth/adult conventions and we experience real victories by the Holy Spirit in our lives at the ‘High Places’.  These are mountain top experiences and we cherish these experiences for the rest of our lives.  They are milestone markers in our relationship to Christ.  These moments in actuality become sacred to us and rightly so because they were real tangible moments when we felt God’s presence in our lives. 

But what happens when we come down from these mountaintops with our laurels of victory having done battle with sin and temptation?  Do we think those temptations and sins will simply disappear on our descent into the ‘real world’?  Can we ride that victory all the way to the gates of heaven?  Of course not!  The real battle is still ahead of us.  We have to enter our lives again fresh from victory and engage the enemy (sin) once again.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that we go into the world looking for sin, that’s not what I mean.  But in our attempt to live holy lives we will most certainly face sin again on the battle field.  When we come down from the mountaintop we must realize that Satan is waiting for us.  He doesn’t want us to succeed continually in our victories but would rather we face the cold realities of a world wrought with sin. 

When we come down from a mountaintop experience, high with the Holy Spirit, we need to be mindful that we cannot rest on yesterday’s victories to get us through today or even tomorrow. The Apostle Paul wrote of his own struggles, and in his wisdom he said this: Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)

What Paul is saying here is that though he had won other victories at other mountaintop experiences he couldn’t rest his laurels on the past because the prize “heavenward in Christ Jesus” was still ahead of him.  He had to keep on going, and this is what we must do as well! 

We cannot rest on our laurels from previous victories and expect to grow into holiness without engaging in our present battles as well.  I think there are two key words here to remember: “Pride” and “Press”.

Pride:

  The Apostle Paul understood the dangers of pride in his life and clearly says, “I am not there yet, my destination isn’t complete.”  C.S. Lewis once said,  When we allow pride to enter into our hearts (pride in what we’ve already accomplished, pride in our holiness, pride in our efforts) we, unknowingly take two steps backward.  We begin to compare ourselves with other Christians along this same journey instead of comparing our image with that of Christ’s.  Pride allows us to keep our laurels yet resting upon them will not propel us forward rather will create in us a stagnancy and therein lies the real danger of an atrophied soul! 

Rather…

Press:

Instead of pride leading to our spiritual demise, we ought to humbly press on toward our ultimate prize which is the very image of God within us – Imago dei.  Without this heavenward goal, which is holding captive our thoughts, actions and speech, we can become so much like the world around us that we blend in completely and are no longer ‘set apart’.  We must press on from victory to victory…keep on keeping on.  We don’t have time to hang our laurels.  We don’t have time to rest and admire them, but we journey on because we haven’t reached our destination yet. 

Let me ask:
Are you resting on your laurels of past mountaintop victories?  If so, it is time to set them aside as glorious as they were and press on.  Our ultimate victory is assured in Christ if we are faithful to Him.  Our goal to be like Him and in so doing we shine before the world so that His redemption is visible to all.  Eternity is our reward as we press on towards our goal!   

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