The very mention of ‘football’ this time of year will usually get people’s attention and initiate excited responses. But mentioning ‘exercise’ or ‘discipline’ at any given time usually brings a less than response by most; mentioning together probably doubly so? Equally so is only those who have seriously endeavoured to practice spiritual disciplines unto “perfection” will continue reading this sentence? [Good, you are still with me.] Biblically, ‘perfection’ simply refers to spiritual maturity.
The Greek word for ‘perfection’ is “teleios“, meaning to make perfect; to carry through completely in order to bring to an end; add what is yet needed in order to render a thing full. James tells us the practice of not giving up, acting in shear endurance, persevering through all trials is what will develop such a “perfect spiritual maturity” in believers (Jms.1:1-8). Of course, one cannot do that without knowing God. Knowing God takes a certain grace, but it begins with self-discipline in the basic spiritual disciplines, a personal effort towards learning God’s ways.
The basic spiritual disciplines are: worship (including singing, clapping, praise, etc in both personal time and congregational settings), prayer (including fasting and intercession), meditation (personally applying The Word that requires a step beyond reading and studying), consecration (self-examination with prayerful attitude leading to confession and repentance). The good news is God does not require us to learn these disciplines all alone. He continually encourages us to make use of like-believers’ insights. He gives us “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers… to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church” (Eph.4:11,12 NLT). Of course,our ultimate help comes from Holy Spirit, Who lives in us; He is our “helper and teacher” (John 14:26). In other words, God expects us to work with His team to carry the ball to the goal. Using a similar analogy in “We Grow Through Exercise”, Warren Wiersbe expounds on the advantages of personally exercising spiritual disciplines as well as the disadvantages when there is a lack thereof this way:
There was a time in church history when believers delighted to discuss the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life, but today anything that smacks of discipline is branded as “legalistic” and alien to the New Testament emphasis on grace. …[The church seems to be] looking for guaranteed shortcuts to maturity.
Some of today’s Christians remind me of the millions of fans who crowd the sports arenas and stadiums week after week, cheering their favorite teams to victory. After each game, these fans shout, “We won! We won!” when in reality the athletes did both the playing and the winning. All the fans did was pay for a ticket, fill a seat, and make a lot of noise. The spectators are the ones who need the exercise, but they settle for shouting, “We won!” and claiming the credit that belongs only to the disciplined athletes.
It doesn’t take much effort to to be a successful spectator… the spectators don’t experience the joy that comes with being disciplined, working with teammates, and giving their best; nor do spectators win any awards. Too many evangelical church services are attended by enthusiastic people who buy their tickets (the offering), watch the game (the service), and cheer when there is victory… They know little or nothing about exercising the disciplines that transform spectators into winning athletes who glorify God.
If you want to be a child of God who does more than watch and cheer, you’ll have to learn the disciplines of the Christian life. You’ll have to become a disciple. Disciples are believers who practice discipline. They understand spiritual exercise.
~ ♥ ~
“…train yourself toward godliness.
Although training your body has certain payoffs,
godliness benefits all things
—holding promise for life here and now and promise for the life that is coming.”
1 Timothy 4:7b-8 (VOICE)
30 DAYS TO DISCOVERING PERSONAL VICTORY THROUGH HOLINESS, by Bruce Wilkinson, chapter 9, “We Grow Through Exercise” by Warren Wiersbe.
VOICE- The Voice Bible
Picture image by Giovanni Gallucci from Plano, Texas (‘burb of Dallas), USA (You+Pics: SMU Mustang Student Spirit) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons