Spiritual Training: Getting Back to the Basics

Jeff Lynn

It is true that we’re saved by grace and we’re sustained by grace, but we’re also sanctified by grace as we abide in him. One of my favorite quotes addresses this very argument. Dallas Willard says “Grace is opposed to earning, but grace is not opposed to effort”. The apostle Paul said to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Yes, we are saved by grace, through faith. But we are made more like Christ through discipline and exercise.

In 1 Timothy verse 7 Paul says to “train yourself for godliness.” For a while, training badly is of some value. Godliness though is of value in every way as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. Again, train yourself for godliness. Bodily training is of some value. Godliness is of value in every way as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

Being in shape spiritually has an effect on the life to come, not only in every way here, but also in the life to come. How you prepare now prepares you for all eternity. So, how well are you prepared? Have you been exercising? Are you spiritually fit?

Discipline being brings freedom. And freedom is a result of discipline. For example, eating right. The discipline of eating right and exercising. When you practice those disciplines, you’re free from gaining weight or maybe subjecting yourself to illness. There is physical freedom, by physically disciplining yourself and exercising. Again, you don’t discipline yourself just for the sake of the discipline, because that leads to legalism and self-righteousness and frustration.

The goal of spiritual discipline is godliness. We don’t go through these exercises just so we can check them off our list. We want to grow more into the image of Christ. We’re being sanctified, set apart as a Christ follower. That’s the goal. Living the Christian life. Discipline without any direction is drudgery. Discipline without direction is drudgery.

So what is the Apostle Paul saying about training ourselves? How do we become spiritually fit? Make the effort. Take the effort to train.

There’s a saying: “Be sore or be sorry”. What does that mean? When you start to have resistance training, your muscles are going to hurt so you can be sore, or you can be sorry that you didn’t trained and you’re not going to manifest any kind of a physical fitness. When’s the last time you really manifested those descriptors when it comes to your spiritual discipline? What about your prayer life?

In verse 12, Paul told Timothy “Let no one despise you for your youth. But, said the believers, be an example in five areas of speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.” Those five areas would be a pretty good measurement of how you’re growing spiritually. People are going to see your progress.

Your speech, it’s what you say. Do you feel like you’ve grown spiritually when it comes to your speech and what you say? Are you negative, pessimistic, critical, sarcastic, gossipy, slanderous? Have you got a foul mouth? Do you say foul words and tell foul jokes? Or are you grateful? Are you a life giver, not a life taker? Are you encouraging? Are you gracious? Do you think before you speak? People will notice, if you discipline yourself in your speech and what you say.

What you do. This is your conduct and what you do is your conduct that becoming of a Christ follower. In 1 Peter 1:14-15 the Bible says, “As obedient children do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance when you didn’t know any better, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” Holy. It doesn’t mean that you’re a goody two shoes. It means that you’re set apart from the world. It means the way you act when somebody tells a joke at school or criticizes or makes fun of somebody at work, you’re not in that conversation. When something happens, your reaction is totally different from those who don’t know Christ.

How you love. There’s agape love, unconditional, selfless love that you have for somebody because you have the warm fuzzies about them. It may not even be that you like them, but you love them and you’re committed to them to serve them. That’s what this means. You want to know what this kind of love looks like? The beginning of 1 Corinthians 13 says “For me, love is patient and kind.” Are you patient with people at your church? Are you patient with people in your family? Love is patient and love is kind. Love does not envy or boast. Again, this is in relation to one another. It’s not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It’s not irritable or resentful, does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love, bears, all things.

Believes all things. Hopes, all things. Endures all things. Remember Jesus said that one of the greatest demonstrations and proofs of the gospel is our love for one another.

What you believe. This is faith. Are you growing in your faith? Are you trusting God to do more and more that you’ve seen God, you’ve trusted God to do something and you took a step of faith and then God did something. And God is increasing your faith. Your ability to believe that He can do exceedingly, abundantly, all above all that you could ask or think. Look at what Paul told the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 10:15. “Our hope is that your faith increases not just your saving faith but believing on and on that faith.”

Your purity. While Paul is talking mainly about sexual purity, the word there implies purity of heart. You’re the same person behind closed doors that you are out in public. Integrity is who you are and what you do when no one is looking.

So how are you developing in these areas?

This is a lifelong process where you can enjoy the Christ life. 2 Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has given us everything required for life in God, in us, through the knowledge of Him, who called us by His own glory and goodness.” Again, it’s a daily regimen of the same things. You’ve got to make up your mind that you’re going to take the time and trouble to be spiritually fit.

Finally, you can enjoy the rewards, the dividends of you individually training.