Develop good habits. This is what personal trainers and health advisors tell us. First, we need to break old habits that work against good health. Then, develop good habits that involve exercise and good nutrition.
The idea is that the good habits replace the bad ones. It's a great theory, but it's putting it into practice that's hard. Why? Oh, I don't know, maybe things like self-discipline and self-denial! These practices are not natural for us, and they require diligence and commitment to maintain.
I know this from experience. I also know how easy it is to fall back into the old habits, the old ways. I know the every-day battle. This also applies to our spiritual life, even living by faith.
It's not that simple, but don't be discouraged
You would think that a life of faith would get easier as you get older, after you've done it for so long. In some ways I suppose that's true, but it's not that simple.
As you get older, physical exercise definitely gets harder, because your body loses natural strength as you age. It's reality. Well-intentioned hype isn't going to reverse aging. Nevertheless, exercise and good nutrition help slow down the aging process, at least up to a point.
But what about faith? Surely this isn't true of our spiritual life is it? I wish it wasn't true, but it is. But wait, don't be discouraged by this!
Just as with physical health, spiritual disciplines are worth the investment and pay lasting dividends. But we need to understand how these are different—the physical and the spiritual.
Spiritual life and faith
Spiritual life is eternal and unlimited, unlike physical life. Our spiritual life begins while we are in our physical bodies, but extends beyond life on earth.
Faith is inherently eternal, personal, and dynamic. It isn't a nebulous concept or theological construct. Faith—true faith—is always rooted in relationship (Heb 11:6).
Let me unpack this in a simple way.
Faith is eternal
Faith, by nature, transcends all the limitations of life on earth. Why? Because faith is rooted in relationship with God, who is eternal.
Eternity isn't a long time. Eternity transcends time. Time only exists within our God-created universe.
God Himself is the Self-existent One. As He told Moses, "I AM who I AM" (Exo 3:14). Much later, Jesus told the Jewish leaders, "Before Abraham was, I AM" (John 8:58). And in the book of Hebrews we're reminded, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Heb 13:8).
Faith is personal
Faith is directly tied to our personal relationship with God. I don't live according to your faith in God, nor can you live out my walk of faith with God.
Our life of faith is unique to each one of us, because we're all different in personality and character. Perhaps the old hymn by Charles Miles expresses this best—
I come to the garden alone, While the dew is still on the roses, And the voice I hear falling on my ear the Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own; And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.
Faith is dynamic
Since faith is eternal and personal, it has a dynamic element. Not that faith changes, but we do—hopefully!
We are being changed internally while the physical process of aging goes on (2 Cor 4:16). We (true followers of Jesus) are being transformed (2 Cor 3:18). One day, we will be like Jesus, the object of our faith (1 John 3:2; 1 Cor 13:12).
The danger of complacency
The danger of growing old in the faith is complacency. It is too easy to become comfortable in our life of faith. We have to guard against kicking our life into neutral, like a car, and coasting along.
Just as with physical discipline for good health, we need to maintain self-disciplines (good habits) for a healthy spiritual life. So, don't give up, and don't give in to complacency.
Don't be like those who celebrate before they get to the finish line. Finish the race (2 Tim 4:7)!
Next week, I hope to look at some good habits to develop for a healthy life of faith.
What do you think are good habits needed for a healthy spiritual life?