We know that physical exercise brings great health benefits. Spiritual exercise brings benefits now—and for eternity.
I Timothy says “… train yourself to be godly” (I Timothy 4:7).
“Freedom and discipline have come to be regarded as mutually exclusive, when, in fact freedom is not at all the opposite, but the final reward of discipline.” —Elizabeth Elliot
The fact that an athlete or musician disciplines himself or herself is essential to success. So it is with the Christian life. Of course, we practice these disciplines or exercises because of grace. Salvation is the pure gift of God’s grace, and our spiritual exercises are our response to His grace.
12 CLASSIC SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES
Here are the classic 12 disciplines (of course there are others) that growing Christians have practiced and two I would stress for today:
- Bible Intake—”If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7).
- Meditation—”…this Book of the Law… meditate on it day and night… then you will have success” (Joshua 1:8).
- Prayer—”by prayer and petition present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).
- Worship—”Worship the Lord your God” (Matthew 4:10).
- Evangelism—”As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21).
- Serving—”Serve the Lord with gladness…” (Psalm 100:2).
- Stewardship—”Honor the Lord with your wealth…” (Proverbs 3:9).
- Fasting—”When you fast…” (Matthew 6:16).
- Silence and Solitude—”Jesus went off to a solitary place” (Mark 1:35).
- Journaling—”Let this be written for a future generation…” (Psalm 102:18).
- Learning and Study—”The wise store up knowledge…” (Proverbs 10:14).
- Perseverance—”…add to your faith perseverance…” (II Peter 1:6).
For the Christian in 2017, I would stress the need for biblical meditation and perseverance.
It is true that we become like what we think about. The heart of the battle is the battle for the heart. And so, we must meditate (e.g., think on, ponder, consider) things that are “true, honest, just, pure, worthy” (from Philippians 4).
More and more we are flooded with information and good and bad things that want our attention. A priority must be that the best things have our attention. Biblical meditation means that, in a world competing for our thoughts, we think on those truths that will result in blessing.
The student returning to college as an adult must prioritize his or her time. This may mean giving up TV for two years, or another activity that will be replaced by study. I had a student that was a winning body builder, but during his PGS years he trained about three hours a week instead of 12 hours a week. The other hours were for study.
Years ago a popular slogan was “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.” How true that is! But the only way to not waste a mind is to practice thinking (or meditating) on that which is important.
Consider memorizing a verse about God’s love and repeating it throughout the day. For example, “The faithful love of the Lord endures forever” (Psalm 117:2). Or, “Blessed is the person who endures temptation…” (James 1:12-22). Look up Bible verses and think about heaven, or forgiveness or the holiness of God. This will prevent a wasted mind and result in blessing.
Some of us are good starters but poor finishers.
The last of the classic spiritual exercises is perseverance, endurance or patience. Hebrews 10:36 says that we “need to endure so that, after we have done the will of God, we may inherit all that He has promised.”
Our rest will come in heaven. Now is the time to preserve in the spiritual disciplines. Those who are successful in life refuse to be sidetracked from the most important things in life. Galatians 6:9 says, “Do not be weary in well doing, for you will eventually reap a good result if you do not give up.”
Personally I have experienced setbacks. All of us have. However, the Lord has enabled me to hang on during the tough times. I look back upon His blessing as a result of not just giving up when I failed, or was rejected or misunderstood.
Let us practice endurance in our “training to be godly.” Like an athlete works to get in shape or like a musician practicing the same songs over and over again. Following these spiritual disciplines, particularly Bible meditation and perseverance, equips and strengthens us to continue to grow into the people God desires us to be.
DEGREE PROGRAMS THAT BUILD ON SPIRITUAL TRAINING
Degree programs at Cornerstone University’s Professional & Graduate Studies division are rooted in the foundation of a Christ-centered worldview. This perspective allows you to incorporate these spiritual disciplines to not only improve your professional goals, but your personal and spiritual life as well.