I’m not much of fan of exercising, although I know I should do it regularly. Each time I go in to my doctor for a physical, he asks what kind of exercise I’m doing. I’m just as good as the next guy in coming up with excuses why I don’t have time or energy or interest to work out. But now that our long Michigan winter is over (thank the Lord!), I’m beginning to realize how important it is, at least for my outlook on life. Being relatively idle for six months while snow covers the ground really does make an impact, not only physically but mentally as well!
Exercising is just as important for the spiritual life as it is for the physical body. Physical exercise can be a time for prayer and meditation, of course, but spiritual exercises are also quite valuable in their own right. These exercises are usually called “spiritual disciplines” in Christian circles, because a certain amount of discipline is required if we choose to participate in these activities consistently.
Many, many books have been written on the spiritual disciplines. The disciplines generally fall into two categories: engaging (prayer, worship, Bible study, fellowship, etc.) and abstaining (fasting, celibacy, solitude, simplicity, etc.). One well-known Christian author, Richard Foster, categorizes the spiritual disciplines differently: inward, outward, and corporate. His best-selling book entitled Celebration of Discipline is the gold standard among Christians for understanding the spiritual disciplines. I have a copy of this book in my study; let me know if you’d like to borrow it sometime!
Why is spiritual exercise so important? Well, if a person spends his or her entire life being spiritually sedentary, then how do you imagine an annual check-up would go? We often think of Christ as our Great Physician, the one who can heal any illness and cure any disease. What if we were to think of Christ as the Great Physician to whom we go for an annual (or more frequent) “spiritual”? What might he suggest about our spiritual health? Would he be pleased with our progress? Would he challenge us to do more exercising? Would we look for reasons why exercising just doesn’t fit into our daily routine?
Your reading assignment for the week is Colossians 3. Read the whole chapter in one sitting, and consider what steps you are taking – or what steps you need to take – to bring about the Christ-like lifestyle and spiritual growth described in this chapter. Then get to exercising!