Every year around this time of year, people come out of their food- and Christmas celebration-induced haze and realize their pants don’t fit quite right. So the owners of said pants make resolutions to exercise more. While I think that kind of exercise is important, I also believe this is the perfect time of year to talk about resolving to exercise our faith more. To do that, here are four ideas from the exercise community that I think we can apply to our spiritual lives.
Build muscles. Exercise teaches us that we have to lift heavier and heavier things if we want to get stronger. The same applies to faith. If we want a stronger faith, we need to have spiritual workouts of reading the Bible, meditating on it, and then living it out in our daily lives. The Bible book called Hebrews uses a food analogy but describes this perfectly: “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (5:13,14). How do we do this? Well, we have to change our habits. We know we can’t get stronger by going to a HIIT or Zumba or spin class and only watching the exercise instructor. Yet it seems we do that with worship. We go to church and absorb what the pastor tells us God says. While I believe that pastors are gifts from God and church is a good thing, too often going to church becomes a spectator sport. In reality, God tells us that a pastor’s job is to equip us for lives of service. We will only get stronger if we hear the message on Sundays and follow up on our own throughout the week.
Practice wrestling skills. The more we read the message God shares in the Bible, the more we have to wrestle with what it says. Sometimes we hear hard messages like the one that tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We face hard decisions of listening to what the Father says or going with our default position of doing whatever we want, whenever we want.
As I was writing this, I searched the Bible for the word wrestle and found a different take on wrestling skills that I needed to add: “Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured” (Colossians 4:12). We are all servants of Jesus, and our faith will grow as we wrestle in prayer for other believers and ask God to bless them with stronger faith too.
Lose the weight. The stronger we get, the more we’ll see the unhelpful things in our lives that we continue to carry, the same way we might carry extra pounds. What bad habits are weighing you down? I’m not asking you to lose them all at once but one gradual step at a time. Maybe you set a limit of one drink because you realize you don’t make decisions that are in your best interest after that. Or you decide to set a screen time reminder because you lose track of time scrolling on your phone. Perhaps you start a group in your home that studies God’s Word and holds you accountable for decisions. Maybe you buy one less coffee a week and set that money aside to pay for Christian books or a men’s or women’s or marriage retreat.
Share exercise success. People who exercise are quick to post about their accomplishments. Whether they attend a boot camp, run a 5K or marathon, do CrossFit, or participate in a triathlon, they share the ways they use the bodies God gave them. Let’s share our faith exercise too—church attendance, Bible study, volunteering, praying. Shine your light and share by posting Bible passages, songs, and encouragement. People won’t know you’re getting stronger unless you tell them.
Linda Buxa is a writer and editor whose pants are a bit tight this January, so she’s worn her Fitbit four whole days in a row and is tracking her nutrition.