Isaiah 40:29-31 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
One thing I find very sad about the state of the American church culture is that many Christians don’t feel like they can be real about their struggles. Because of the facade we think we have to put on for other church people, we don’t let them in on our little secret that we’re weak and it’s only because of God’s strength that we make it.
It does a disservice to everyone when we think we have to be strong on our own. I remember thinking as a kid that all of the Christians I saw at church had it all together. I really never knew that anyone had doubts about their faith, or worried about their finances, or had marriage issues. I just thought that I was supposed to have it made if I was a Christian. I know better now.
It’s not only okay to be reliant on God for His strength, it’s what He wants from us. He even allows us at times to be in circumstances that only He can get us out of. Why? So He can display His strength. Being dependent on God is right and good. He’s our Father who wants to take care of us and He is able to do so.
Sometimes we have to put down the Hercules act and admit that we’re not superhuman. To be physically healthy we need rest and we need to know our limitations. We need to trust in God enough to take care of things that we pause from working and let Him handle it. Believe it or not, this also leads to spiritual growth also.
How are you doing at this? Do you think you have to handle everything or do you rely on God and rest in Him?
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
You and I have work to do. We’ve each been given a calling to fulfill, a mission to accomplish, and that requires our physical bodies. It’s our job, then, to maintain the vessel God will use.
One of my only hobbies is running obstacle course races. They range from about 3 miles to somewhere near 12 miles and there are any number of various obstacles to tackle along the way. Sometimes a course is fairly easy, other times I come home barely able to walk for two days. People always ask me why I put myself through that. My answer is twofold.
First, having a physical goal ahead of me motivates me to stay in shape, to get ready for the event. That’s about the only thing that gets me exercising sometimes. Secondly, I like to sign up for these challenges because they’re uncomfortable and outside the norm. I want to push myself physically to do things that I’m not sure I can actually do. I end up praying a whole lot while I’m running the course because I need all the help I can get. It reminds me that I’m dependent on my Creator to do anything. I believe that brings Him glory.
Now, let me wrap all this physical stuff in with the spiritual aspect we’ve talked about. I have a calling to love God more than anything else, giving my body as a living sacrifice. In order to carry out His purpose for me, which includes loving other people, serving them, and all other sorts of things that require a physical body, I’ve got to keep my body operational to the best of my ability.
My body is not my own. Your body is not your own. We’ve been bought with a price and now we’re to bring the Lord glory through our bodies. We can’t neglect the physical in exchange for the spiritual. They need each other.
How are you taking care of your temple? What do you need to do to improve?
2 Timothy 2:2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Giving is good for spiritual health. We’ve discussed how not withholding finances and possessions can be a great exercise, but there’s more to be shared than just the tangible things of this life. We have something even greater and it just begs to be shared with others.
The gospel of Jesus Christ, that is, the good news that He lived a perfect life that we could never live, without sin, and paid the ultimate price by dying on a cross to pay for our sins, and that He rose again from the dead and now advocates for us even now on His throne, is not some mysterious secret to be kept. It’s the best story ever to be told and it must be told to all who will hear.
If we’re paying attention and really have our eyes open, we’ll see that there are potential opportunities to share this news all over. Withholding the gospel and keeping it for ourselves is not good for us spiritually. It makes us inwardly focused, which is not the purpose God intended for the gospel. It’s meant to be told, again and again and again.
If you’re flatlining spiritually and aren’t sure what’s wrong, take a self assessment and diagnose whether you’re sharing the Good News with others or keeping it bottled up within. If the answer is the latter, make it a point to ask God for a person to share His story with.
Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Here’s a basic principle for remaining healthy: eat the right stuff, don’t eat too much, and exercise. That same concept can be applied to spiritual health as well. Study God’s Word, but don’t just sit around studying, put it into action. Serving others is spiritual exercise.
Someone once told me early on in my Christian life that it was time for me to stop just reading all the time and put the Word into practice. I was afraid to do it, worried that I was unqualified because I still had so much to learn. But he was right, if I was ever going to start living the way God wanted me to live, I’d have to walk out of my room and start serving other people.
Let’s look to our example of how to love and serve: Jesus. If anyone ever had a right to be served by everyone else, it was Jesus. Despite the fact that He simply could have ordered everyone to bow down to Him as their King, He chose instead to become servant to all. He didn’t come to earth to be served, but to give His own life.
Now, what’s holding us back from giving unselfishly for the sake of others knowing Him?
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
The most important commands we’re ever given by God are to love Him above all else and to love other people. This starts with loving our own fellow believers. By our love for “one another,” Jesus says, the world will know we’re His. We don’t always do real well at that, do we? Truth is, the outside world often sees the church as a bunch of bickering people who can’t get along.
It’s unfortunate that the people we call brothers and sisters in the family of God are often the ones who we’re least likely to get along with. It shouldn’t be this way. I submit to you that the leading cause of problems within the church is pride. If we’d put others’ needs before our own, we’d find a much healthier church with healthier individuals.
Pride eats away at the soul of a Christian, causing spiritual health to decline. We can’t get the other commands right if we can’t get the love part. No amount of prayer and Bible study is going to get us unstuck spiritually if we’re not willing to love.
Love is an absolutely essential element of the life of a believer. Without it, we’re flat and ineffective, not living out the calling God has given us.
Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Are you ready? Here’s the subject most people don’t want to hear about when it comes to living for God. Money and tithing. You may cringe when you hear a pastor or teacher speak on this topic, but I’m going to ask you to bear with me for a moment.
One reason that many Christians remain spiritually unhealthy is because they choose to ignore this one principle from God’s Word. If you’re spending time with God in prayer, reading and studying the Bible, trying to love your neighbor as yourself, and everything else, but you’re holding something back from God, you’re never going to succeed. It’s not about funding the church. God doesn’t ask us to give because He needs our money. What He wants most is us, and if we’re possessed by our possessions, we can’t be His.
Tithing really isn’t about the amount. It’s about the way in which we give it. If we’re glad to give and have a good attitude, it’s good for our spiritual health. If we give, but it’s with great hesitancy, we’re not doing ourselves any good. Tithing is more about giving the first than it is about giving a tenth. When we trust in God enough to give back to Him some of what He’s given us, we’re actually worshipping Him. When we worship, we’re saying He’s in control and we’re not.
Presenting to God some of what’s already His to begin with is good for spiritual health. Holding on to our stuff and hoarding it, that’s not. Wise people know the difference.
Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
How are you doing at Bible study? Does that question make you nervous? I’ll be honest, I hate being asked questions like that because it implies that there’s this level to be achieved, like those who are doing really well are experts, and that makes me feel like a rookie. Maybe I’m the slacker in the room, but I’m willing to assume that many of you can relate.
There are lots of Bible study tools online and it’s not my intention to point you to all of them today, but my emphasis is this: context. To really study the Bible, it’s not about what other books or other people say about it. It’s about what the Bible says about itself. Did that make sense? If I’m studying a subject in Scripture and I have a question about what it means, it’s best to find other places where God inspired someone to write on the same subject within Scripture. We could all save ourselves a lot of trouble and false doctrine in our lives if we’d stick to this basic rule.
It’s also important that we follow the instructions of James in being “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). It’s not enough to just study God’s Word. It’s not enough to just read and consume. It’s good to do so, but if we don’t put the Word into action, we’re missing the point. That’s precisely why so many Christians are unhealthy spiritually. They’re consuming and consuming without getting any spiritual exercise (we’ll talk more about that in a future devotion), becoming lethargic and spiritually flabby.
Study the Word and DO it!
Proverbs 8:34 Blessed is the one who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates,
waiting beside my doors.
In the world of Christianity, we’ve come to refer to prayer time spent with God as “quiet time,” but in my life there’s very little time that could be qualified as “quiet.” With three little kids running around, it’s not easy to etch out time for a daily devotional time. Waking up earlier is not always an option, because certain kids in my home (who shall remain unnamed) wake up at incredibly early hours. So am I doing this quiet time thing all wrong? Am I less of a Christian if I don’t follow the many people who get up SO early and spend that time dedicated to the Lord?
The thing is, when we boil down time with God to a few minutes first thing in the morning, we do two things: 1) we cause people who don’t do well at that to feel very guilty or like a failure, and 2) we make prayer to our Father into something that can just be checked off of a list. Time with God is so much more than something to get us going in the morning, though it’s a great way to start the day. It’s an ongoing conversation throughout the day with Him.
Reality check: All that said, if we don’t take some time every day to intentionally meet with God, it may never happen at any other time during the day. If you’re like me, that may not mean you do “quiet time” when you first wake up. I’m willing to be that many of you, like me, don’t function at all until the first cup of coffee has been consumed. I spend time with God after I’m capable of processing what I’m reading from His Word and able to communicate coherently in prayer. Maybe that’s not the way everyone does it, but the important thing is that I spend time with my Lord every day.
He’s always got something to say to me, and I’ve always got something to say to Him. It’s time well spent. Better than anything else I could be doing, as a mater of fact. If you don’t take specific time to meet with God daily, will you give it a try? Start today.
Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
Someone once asked Jesus what God’s greatest command was (Mark 12:28). He answered that it was to love God with everything we have, more than we love anything else. That’s a difficult thing for most of us. We love a lot of things.
Think about some things that you love. You love your family. You may have a pet that you love. Maybe there is a hobby you can’t get enough of. Or there could even be things like your career or the success you’ve achieved that have become objects of your love. God is saying to love Him more than you love anything else. Anything at all.
There was another person in the Bible that asked Jesus what He had to do to get into heaven (Matthew 19:16). Jesus answered Him that he had to give up all of the things that he loved more than he loved Jesus. The very rich man had a ton of stuff he had acquired. The man couldn’t part with his possessions because he had begun to identify himself by them, so he didn’t give up anything and he went away from Jesus very sad. What that man needed to realize was that Jesus is better than anything that he loved in his life. What you and I need to realize is that anything we could give up for Jesus is worth it.
We should love Jesus so much that we want what He wants. We should want to be like Him and want to do what He did. When we make Him most important in our lives, we’re starting to really live for God. When He’s our treasure, and we love Him above all, we can be transformed.
John 13:15-16 If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever
Have you ever found yourself stuck in life? Maybe you had this great plan, but after time passed, you just never seemed to get to where you were headed. It could be that’s even true of your spiritual life. You’ve gone to church, tried to be a better person, and just seem to be spinning your wheels. I’ve been there.
It’s tough to be in a situation like that, when you feel like you’re doing all that you can to improve but not seeing any results. It’s infuriating, in fact. Part of the problem with our failed efforts is that we’re trying to make change on our own. It’s not possible apart from the help of the Holy Spirit.
There are seven key habits that are taught in order to improve spiritual health. These habits are not just more effort to transform ourselves; they’re daily choices we make to align what we want with what God wants. I’m going to go deeper into each of these habits over the next few days, but today I’ll just list them for you to ponder.
The 7 habits to improve our spiritual health are:
- Love Jesus more than anything else. (Mark 12:30)
- Meet with God daily. (Proverbs 8:34)
- Study and do the Word of God. (Psalm 1:1-3)
- Love other people. (Mark 12:31)
- Give the best to God. (James 1:17)
- Serve others unselfishly. (Mark 10:45)
- Share the Good News about Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:2)