Thursday, February 12, 2015

What Are You Training For?

                Back in September of last year I decided it was time for a new direction in regards to my health and well being. Over the years certain parts of my physical body have decided to take a vacation, my metabolism being one of them. I am pretty sure when I hit thirty years old my
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metabolism retired and went off to vacation in the sunny Caribbean, leaving me with weight gain and lack of energy. Every year my body would lose more of that energy and I was feeling a lot older than one at thirty-something, (okay, okay I cannot lie, more like forty something) should feel. I began to feel less like a human being and more and more like a couch potato. Then the Lord spoke to me and showed me how I had been treating His temple and how I needed to make a change, All I seemed to ever have energy for was eating, sleeping and watching TV, not much energy for anything else. He showed me that I needed to learn how to train my body to do what He wanted it to do, not what it wanted to do. I needed to bring my body under the power and leading of His Holy Spirit. I needed to stop destroying the body that He had given me, that was precious to Him, and that is exactly what I set out to do.
                It started in September when I let go of a bad habit that had been hanging onto me for years. Through the discipline He taught me in that area of my life, He then led me, at the beginning of the year to change our diet and the way we see food, and last but not least, I have added daily exercise to my life. My goal was to get healthy, not for my sake but for His sake. Because He was right, I was abusing the body He paid so dearly for, and it was causing me to forsake His calling on my life because my body was wearing down from the abuse I had put it through. So, now after all these months I am beginning to see the benefits of all this change He has brought into my life. It is all for the better. But one thing I am learning is that the same dedication and determination that I have put into getting healthy in my physical life; is the same dedication and determination I need to be putting into my spiritual life as well.
                “But reject profane and old wives fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.” 1 Timothy 4:7-9
                During the time of Paul and Timothy the Romans were pretty big into physical exercise. The Olympian Games were a part of their lives, as well as other sports that required constant physical training. Much like today, we put a lot of emphasis on exercise, taking care of our bodies and doing all that we can to live a healthy, long life. But what about our spiritual lives? Our physical bodies are only going to last us as long as the Lord has desired them to last. But our eternal lives, well, they will last forever. Therefore, the same amount of time and energy I have put into getting my physical life into shape should more so be applied to my spiritual life, if I want to live a healthy eternal one.
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                Bodily exercise does profit us. It strengthens our muscles, strengthens our hearts, gives us energy, and over all increases the wellness of our daily life. Some studies say that by adding exercise to your daily routine you can actually become happier. The determination it takes to get out of bed every morning and get on my treadmill is the same determination that I must use to open up my Bible and read and pray. The same commitment I have to eat healthy foods that I can pronounce and that I know God created is the same commitment that I need to put into walking out His word.
                Paul tells Timothy first of all to “reject profane and old wives fables”. What I believe Paul is saying is that we should train ourselves to seek out God’s Word first. Don’t listen to those around you who seem to have an answer for everything. You know the ones I am talking about. You tell them your problems and they have an answer for it, they know all the right “Christianese” to make it seem like they are wiser than they really are. Before we seek anyone’s counsel, let us train ourselves to seek His first. Just like I make a determined effort to get on my treadmill, the same determined effort needs to be put into the study of His Word. Ungodly advice is like poison to our bones. It will eventually rot you from the inside out. Focus and train your mind toward the written Word of God and you will gain health to your soul. (Proverbs 3:7-8)
                Paul then goes on and tells Timothy that he should “exercise {himself} toward godliness.” The definition of exercise refers to a training of the body or the mind. For instance, I set my alarm clock every single night to get up early enough to add into my daily routine forty-five minutes of power walking and/or running on my treadmill. I made a goal back in January and I am striving every day to reach that goal. Have I hit that mark every day? No, some days I have slacked and taken a day of rest because let’s face it, these old bones hurt! But, that same attitude and determination I have to reach the goal of a healthy body can be applied to my spiritual walk, and it should be applied even more so to my spiritual walk, but without the excuse of old bones!
                Godliness comes from an Old English word which means “Godlikeness”. Godliness is the result of someone who has their mind fixed on God. In their character, in their thoughts, in their words they emulate and imitate God. Godliness is the heart attitude of someone who desires to live a life that pleases God and God only. Paul tells us that if we train our minds and bodies to follow after physical health and are given rewards from that, then how much greater will our spiritual rewards be if we apply these same principles to our walk with Him?
                The more you eat well, the more you exercise, the more you take care of the body God has given you, the more results you will see. I used to put into my body large amounts of sugar, caffeine, processed foods and chemicals that I couldn’t even pronounce, and the result was that my body began to give me back tiredness, sleeplessness, feelings of sickness all the time, aches and pains and headaches. My body was giving me back what I was putting into it. The same is true of our spiritual lives. Imagine if you focused your mind and your determination on the things of God instead of the things of this world; imagine the benefits you would receive.
                The rewards and the benefits we will receive when we exercise our hearts and our lives toward godliness will be eternal. No matter how much I exercise, or how much I change what I eat, how I eat, etc, the fact still remains, this body will give out and it will die one day. I can do nothing to change that fact. I do not make these changes for the sake of trying to extend my life on this earth, because no one can do that but God. I make these changes so that the life that I now live can be lived to the fullness which I have in Christ Jesus my Lord. I want to live this life that He has given me to the fullness of His glory, and I can’t do that if I am being brought down by the lack of wellness in my body- whether physical or spiritual.
I cannot live this life He has given me to the fullness of His glory if I do not seek Him in and through it all. If I want to live my life for Him, then I must train and exercise my heart, my mind, my soul and my strength to chase after the things of His pleasure. Isn’t that what Jesus said to us when He tells us to “love the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our souls, and with all our minds”?
(Matthew 22:37) We cannot expect to live godly if we do not train our bodies to that same godliness every single day.

                We are training our spiritual lives for something, whether we admit it or not. If I desire to please Him, to live my life for Him, then I must see that godliness is much more profitable to me than any bodily exercise could ever be. The life that is to come is an eternal one.  Paul leaves us with this that what He has told us up to this point is faithful and worthy of all our acceptance. God’s word is true. The benefits of applying the determination and commitment to God will outweigh the benefits we could ever obtain from physical exercise. Exercise yourselves towards godliness, seek to please Him and to be like Him, that alone will bring you the fullness of life that He has promised to all those who believe in Him. So, the question remains, what are you training for?