Six Things I Learned About Spiritual Growth From Hitting The Gym

It was January. I was in a gym. You get the idea. In my post-holiday state, I had great aspirations that thisyear would be the year I got into shape. No more binging on bags of chips, no more putting off workouts until I felt up to it, no more making excuses to get healthy next month. It was time to make some changes. And I was motivated.

The trouble is…I didn’t really know how to start. Oh, I could figure out an elliptical machine easy enough, but when I tried to lift weights like those reallyfit women – you know, the ones with perfectly toned triceps and the super-cute Lululemon outfits – all kinds of things went wrong! But the more I stuck with it, the more I learned. And believe it or not, there was one lesson I learned that had nothing to do with how much I could bench press.

I started to see that my spiritual discipline was a lot like my physical discipline.

If you’re anything like me, you sometimes look at your swHw sister and want to pursue Christ like she does. You know the woman I’m talking about – the one who does her Bible study with the cute journal and coordinating coffee cup. You’re motivated…but you don’t know where to start. Never fear, my friend. There are some simple truths that are as true about your spiritual health as they are our physical health:

You need a plan.

Physical discipline doesn’t just happen. Nobody drifts into healthy living. I’ve never heard anyone say that they overcame obesity, gained muscle or ran a 5K because it “just happened.” No – it took effort. It took making a decision to change. It took getting a plan.

Your spiritual discipline is the same. Nobody drifts into personal holiness. It takes effort and sacrifice. The truth is, very few of us are “naturally” disciplined. But, guess what? That’s actually really good news! It means we can choose to change. We can choose to live differently.

What needs to change in your relationship with God?

What do you need to make time for and what do you need to say “no” to?

Where do you need to go to get a plan?

You might feel like an amateur at first.

I can’t tell you how awkward I felt when I first tried lifting weights! Between wondering if I was doing it all wrong and wondering how silly I looked using such a light weight, I was tempted to just give up. But the thing is, everybody starts somewhere.

The important thing is to just start.

If you feel like an amateur in your spiritual life, you don’t need to “get your act together” before beginning to grow. God wants you just as you are. Spiritual disciplines like reading God’s Word, prayer, worship, and fasting are like spiritual muscles. And like all muscles, we have to work them to make them stronger.

Maybe you need to join a small group at your church, where you can share with other believers what God is teaching you and where you’re struggling. That’s learning to work a spiritual muscle! Don’t let the initial awkwardness of being new to spiritual discipline keep you from starting right where you are.

You’ve got to be consistent.

Have you heard of the “weekend warrior”? It’s the person who crams an enormous workout into one or two days, then gives little effort for the rest of the week. But if you want lasting change, it’s going to take consistency.

Being a “weekend warrior” in your spiritual life won’t cut it either. In fact, you’ll discover stronger results by taking small steps in your spiritual growth every day.

Can’t spend an hour in prayer each morning? Don’t be discouraged. Take 5 minutes, three times each day to talk to God. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you.

You’ll be amazed at how the small, simple things over time transform your spiritual life. Discipline happens when we make daily choices…that create patterns…that shape our lives. Eugene Peterson, author of The Messagetranslation of the Bible, described spiritual growth as “a long obedience in the same direction.”

If you’re an on-the-go mom who’s managing her home and her business, it’s easy to feel guilty about all you’re notdoing. In an effort to be perfect, we can get overwhelmed and frustrated and quit altogether. Just remember: It’s not about perfection. It’s about consistency.

You can’t out-exercise a bad diet.  

This reminder is written down at my gym and it’s so true. You don’t even want to know how many pints of ice cream I’ve cracked open because, hey, I worked out! But it doesn’t matter how long you run on the treadmill if you’re filling your body with junk food.

The same is true of your spiritual health. No amount of time you spend reading your Bible can outweigh disobedience.

It’s so easy to indulge in the sins that slow us down and trip us up (Heb 12:1-2). Perhaps we even start to ease up on ourselves because, after all, look at all the good things we’re doing. But God wants you to have whole spiritual health, and that includes confession, repentance, and progressive obedience.

What “junk” do you need to get rid of?

What’s slowing you down and working against the investment of your relationship with Christ?

You need other people to help you.

How many times have you heard about the benefit of working out with a friend? It’s tough to sustain commitments on our own, and we all tend to be more faithful to achieve our goals when we include other people. Our spiritual growth is no different!

God didn’t create us to be able to grow on your own – we all need people. We all need teachers who will show us how they grew, what they’ve learned, how they failed. We all need encouragers who will cheer us on and celebrate our victories. And we all need coaches who will help us get back up when we’ve fallen short and get back on the right course.

Who will help you in your spiritual fitness goals?

And who can you help? 

You might not see change right away…

 …but it’s happening! It’s easy for me to give up on working out when I don’t see instant results. But every time I make a healthy choice, I’m making an investment. And before I know it, I’ve turned a corner to discover greater strength than I had just a few weeks ago.

I love how this quote attributed to C.S. Lewis says it: “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different?”

You may feel like you’re not getting anywhere in your spiritual life. But every time you read your Bible, pray when you don’t feel like it, and worship with a biblical community, you’re making an investment in your spiritual health. God is changing you from the inside out in ways you can’t see. And, with time and faithfulness, you’ll discover that you’re spiritually stronger than you were before.

Just. Keep. Going.

So what are your spiritual fitness goals? What are the small, simple changes you can start making today? Share them with your swHw sisters as we cheer each other on and grow together!

By | 2018-05-21T10:14:17+00:00 May 22nd, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Six Things I Learned About Spiritual Growth From Hitting The Gym

About the Author:

Katie McCoy serves as Assistant Professor of Theology in Women's Studies at Scarborough College of Southwestern Seminary. She holds a PhD in Systematic Theology from Southwestern (2016). Her research focused on Old Testament laws about women's personhood and what they teach us about women's dignity and social justice.