“Exercise thyself unto godliness” (I Timothy 4:7).
As with the determination to engage our bodies for the purpose of strength, health, and greater ability to physically function, so must born again believers determine to act in a manner whereby we are spiritually energized.
Growth in the grace and truth of the Lord Jesus Christ does not simply happen. The work undertaken by God to conform us into the image of His Son begins with His powerful activity on our behalf – “it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Our free response to such grace, as enabled by the indwelling Holy Spirit, determines how well we will actually know and honor our Lord – “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). As A.W. Tozer once wrote, “We will all know God about as well as we want to know Him.”
I think of this truth often when working out physically. The truths of the gym all reflect the greater truths of the heart. We make sacrifices of time, effort, strain, and even pain in order to strengthen ourselves physically. We expect benefit from doing so, and if we properly exercise, bodily, mental, and emotional rewards ensue. As I once heard a preacher declare, “the Bible says that bodily exercise profiteth little. But it does profit – a little.” Spiritual exercise, conversely, promises far greater benefits whereby we become able to “lay hold on eternal life” as the faculties of our hearts are prepared to apprehend the living presence of God (I Timothy 6:12). Indeed, just as physical exercise enables us to function better in this temporal world, spiritual exercise activates our capacity to live in accordance with eternal realities.
“Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). Note that Paul commands us to experience the strength of God. Recall also his teaching that “the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made” (Romans 1:20). Thus, the truths of the gym do indeed reflect the greater truths of the heart. We must engage the muscles and sinews of our spirits, as it were, if they are to function in a manner worthy of our high calling in Christ. Making the daily sacrifices of time, effort, strain and even pain, as led and enabled by the Holy Spirit, accomplishes this preparatory spiritual exercise whereby we are enabled to fulfill the work of God for the glory of God.
“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power.” (Colossians 1:9-11)