Anyone who has worked in orthopedic physical rehabilitation can relate to the common experience of patients who enter the clinic. They are weak, temporarily physically disabled and in need of some significant guidance and direction to get back onto their feet. Often, their physical problems are directly associated to personal neglect, which precipitates weakness, instability, pain and often injuries.
Most if not all their complaints can be resolved with the appropriate guidance. However, there is considerable frustration with a large portion of this population group because they tend to recycle through physical rehabilitation with the same complaints year after year. Why? Because they fail to follow through on their own with the instructions they were given when they left the clinic, relating to the proper exercise, time, persistence, discipline, patience and nutrition. In other words, they fail to be responsible. For anyone who has ever participated in athletics, this is common sense. There are simply some basic principles that enhance physical development which must be followed, or you will remain deconditioned, weak and futile in your effort to participate athletically.
So, how do these same basic physical development principles correlate to our spiritual development? Just how many Christians are in a constant need of spiritual rehabilitation due to neglect, remain deconditioned spiritually, weak in their walk and futile in their effort to be a light on the hill (Matthew 5:14)?
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Nutrition and exercise: When an athlete is poorly fed or spends very little time training, he fails to develop. These type athletes are not physically consuming or doing what they need to do to be competitive. Spiritually, the Christian walk is the same. When Christians fail to read Scripture (nutrition) and study (exercise), they fail to develop spiritually. They fail to grow. They become Christian anorexics and erode spiritually. Just as our physical neglect leads to physical weakness and our inability to assist anyone physically, our spiritual neglect and erosion results in our inability to spiritually assist others and limits our ability to positively influence those around us – a light on the hill vs. a flicker.
When you are hungry or suffer from a lack of nutrition, you become easily distracted due to your physical weakness and need for healthy food. Spiritually, when you do not read and study Scripture, your spiritual strength wanes, you become spiritually deconditioned, and you become easily distracted by worldly things and personal issues.
Time: Successful athletes understand the amount of time and effort it takes to develop the physical requirements to effectively compete against an opposing team or individual. They understand that just setting aside five or 10 minutes of their time each day will never allow them to compete effectively. They must put in the appropriate time each day. Spiritually, the same holds true for Christians. If you spend very little time in God's Word, you will never reach the level of maturity required to be the most effective witness. You become more of a bystander than a participant, due to lack of development.
Discipline: Those who exercise routinely throughout the week, month after month, year after year, understand that there are many days when that time of day approaches to exercise, and you can find 1 million things you would rather do with your time than disciplining yourself to change your clothes and simply "get it done." You keep telling yourself on those lazy days that you know if you just make yourself do it, you will feel much better afterward and be thankful that you did, which is true. This is just as true with reading and studying Scripture. There are many days, when, due to a wide variety of reasons, you simply are not in the mood for it. Again, as with exercise, you know that if you discipline yourself to sit down and "get it done," you are going to feel much better afterward, and you do. The clarity of your view on life becomes clearer when you study.
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Persistence: Often, with physical training, a measurable change in our physical function may not become apparent for some time. When this happens, we can lose sight of the big picture as to why our efforts to maintain ourselves physically is necessary. The small daily gains or benefits may not be that noticeable or measurable, so your persistence may wane, due to what you feel is an insignificant physical impact from the effort you may have put into it.
This is true spiritually as well. There are some days when you may feel Scripture may not have necessarily spoken to you the way you would have liked. You may feel there has not been a measurable spiritual growth or development from your efforts. But there does not have to be. As with physical exercise, which maintains our strength, the same holds true spiritually. In the absence of what you feel may be a lack of spiritual development or growth, there will always be a level of spiritual maintenance. This preservation of our spiritual walk inhibits spiritual deconditioning.
Due to the growing assault on Christianity and the infinite number of worldly distractions, Christians can not afford to be spiritually deconditioned. With athletics, you are going to be physically challenged, so you prepare yourself to bring your best game to the field. Spiritually, the same holds true. Daily you are going to be challenged with all the false doctrines, ideologies and hatred for Christianity itself, so you had better be prepared daily to bring your best game to the field. You simply cannot show up spiritually deconditioned and weak. Consider this for your New Year's resolution, compared to ones that are of little benefit eternally.