I recently took up Cross-fit training for two reasons: I was overweight and out of shape. I could tell that there were things I should be able to do with ease, even at fifty-five, which wore me out. I’m now in better shape, (but I’m still a bit overweight).
The point is that I’m not ready to give up being an active person, but I knew that if I didn’t do something about it I wasn’t going to have any choice; the cardiovascular ability wasn’t going to be there. I had two basic problems with personal fitness: a sedentary job and a diet full of sugar. I needed to get off my duff and change the way I ate.
Derek Wright, of Hard Target / Krav Maga, the gym where I work out, writes:
“Back in 1822 the average person ate only 6.3 lbs of sugar per year, compared to 130 lbs of sugar in 2012. That’s more than 20 times as much sugar in our modern diet! No wonder we are bigger than ever… some form of refined sugar is included in virtually every single processed food … it’s important to cut those processed and packaged convenience foods out of your diet.
Cutting sugar from your diet is easier said than done. Once it is a part of your daily diet, cravings strike, causing you to eat it even more frequently … even the diet soda you’re sipping is making it harder for you to reach your goal weight. While the diet soda itself doesn’t contain calories, it has been proven to cause cravings for sugary foods.”
Who hasn’t tried to lose weight and failed? The reasons always go back to a poor diet and lack of exercise. We eat too many convenience foods, which are full of unhealthy calories, and we sit when we should stand, ride when we should walk, and relax when we should be working out.
A similar phenomenon can happen in our spiritual lives. It’s one the Apostle Paul warned his protégé’, Timothy, about in 1 Timothy 4:7-8.
“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training has some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
In a spiritual sense, Paul was warning Tim away from “convenience foods for the soul,” i.e. godless myths and old wives’ tales, and urging him to spiritual exercise.
Spiritual convenience foods clog the shelves today, just as they did then. The feel-good spirituality that teaches that God is more interested in our happiness than our holiness comes to mind along with the gospel of success, and some of the more spectacular doomsday predictions.
These things are distractions. They aren’t preparing God’s people to take on the demands of following Christ in a culture increasingly hostile to the gospel. They aren’t preparing us to deal with unethical behavior in business, professional, and church settings. They aren’t helping us lead our families wisely and well as they face corruption in schools and social environments.
With that in mind I offer four tips for training your soul.
First, build strong, transparent relationships with godly friends. Find a few people who are committed to obeying Christ no matter what, and commit to meet regularly to discuss the Scriptures, sharpen and pray for each other.
Second, commit to regular intake of solid food: read scripture, study hard books, things that force you to work your mental muscles. Turn off the T.V., put down the smartphone, and learn to think biblically about life.
Third, learn the art of listening prayer. Be still before the Lord and tell him that you are listening, that you want him to lead you and that when he does, you will obey. The Transforming Friendship, by James Houston, is an excellent resource, along with many others.
Fourth, master your time. Jesus was very intentional about time. He talked quite a bit about God’s timing. He did things at certain times and did not do other things at certain times. He did not allow himself to be blown about, to drift with the currents of the times or the whims of his disciples or followers or even his enemies. His no was as ready as his yes. He was very much the master of his schedule. Learn to be the master of yours.
In the coming years it is going to be more difficult to be a committed follower of Christ in this country than at any time in the past. Spiritually flabby, unfit Christians will not be up to the challenge. Time to do some serious soul training.