Countless offers fill the TV screen and magazines for dieting, exercise equipment, gyms, and other options to gain physical health. And yet, obesity and poor health remain at epidemic levels. The problem is known, and so is the solution.
Sadly, there's a parallel when it comes to spiritual health. America has more resources for spiritual growth than any other nation in the world, and that's not an exaggeration. But are we spiritually healthy? No. So, what's wrong?
The physical is an illustration of the spiritual
My friend the fitness trainer tells me the basics for good health are pretty simple. Good nutrition is vital, which includes limiting our caloric intake. Exercise needs to complement healthy nutrition. Oh, and another important element is discipline.
Discipline seems to be the hardest for most of us. We may do well for a while, but then fall out of our routine of diet and discipline.
I speak from experience. I'm not overweight by too much, but I slack off when it comes to exercise. I'm too busy. Or is that laziness disguised as busyness? And do I like comfort more than discipline? Um, yeah, that seems about right.
This is where I see a parallel with spiritual health. I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago— Shouldn't It Get Easier? So, let's continue looking at this issue of spiritual health.
The classic list
When I was a new believer, I heard a list of important elements for a healthy spiritual life. I still hold these as valuable, but this list tends to become more of a checklist than guide. Here it is—
- Read your Bible daily, all of it
- Pray often, including prayer for others
- Be in regular fellowship with other believers
- Worship the Lord, both corporately (in church) and privately
- Service– find some way to serve others, both within the church and outside it
- Share your faith with others
As I said, these things are all good, but I find many people do them out of obligation. They should not be done out of duty or obligation to the Lord or the church. They are valuable disciplines, but should flow out of our personal relationship with Jesus.
But how does that happen? How can we keep these disciplines without them becoming obligations?
It's all about relationship
Keeping the focus on relationship is the only way we can keep our Christian faith from becoming mere duty. First, we need to understand it is our natural tendency to take what is spiritual and make it religious.
[bctt tweet="Focusing on relationship is the only way to keep our Christian faith from becoming a duty"]
We all gravitate towards some form of religious list-keeping, often seen as legalism. Why? Because we are by nature like Adam and Eve after they ate from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen 3:6-8). We try to cover our own nakedness, shame, guilt, or fears. We do this by justifying ourselves—trying to make ourselves look good in God's sight.
In many of the Pauline epistles, the apostle Paul addresses this tendency in one part of the epistle, then explains how to live a life free of this default behavior.
As Paul exhorts the Colossian believers that they don't need to follow man-made rules, he reminds them how they are to live. The focus is on their relationship with Jesus. It may not be obvious at first until we see the simple but key phrase in Him.
As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so continue to live in him. Keep your roots deep in him and have your lives built on him. Be strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always be thankful. (Colossians 3:6-7 NCV) [emphasis mine]
5 Guidelines for a healthy spiritual life
- As you received [Jesus]... continue to live in Him— How do we receive Christ Jesus as our Lord and Savior? By faith, and because of His grace! So, we need to continue to live by faith, not by our own efforts to be Christian. Any disciplines we keep need to be done in faith, not our own strength and reasoning.
- Rooted in Him— Our relationship with Jesus is our foundation. Who is He? Many Scriptures could be used, but here it is in His own words— I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). He is our way. If we are followers of Jesus we need to be led by Him. We need a solid foundation in the truth (Scriptures). And we need to live each day for Him.
- Built on Him— When we have a strong foundation in the Lord, we can grow in a strong and healthy way. The obvious illustration is a tree. If a tree doesn't have a strong, healthy root system, it will fall in the face of storms or drought or pests. This speaks of our need to be discipled and mentored by other more mature believers.
- Strong in the faith— We need to be grounded in the truth of the Christian faith, and be able to explain it to others. As we mature in the faith, we become examples and mentors for others. But this is an ongoing process. Just like the illustration of the tree, we need to continue to grow to bear fruit.
- Always be thankful— An important element to a healthy spiritual life is thankfulness. Our day needs to start and end with being thankful, and throughout the day. This is a way for us to keep a right perspective. Thankfulness for God's kindness, goodness, mercy, provision, and so many other things, reminds us who we love, serve, and live for—Jesus.
Are you rooted in Him and is your life built on your faith in Him?
How is your spiritual health? Are these guidelines helpful to you?
Let me know by commenting on this blog site or where you see this post on social media. And thanks for reading!