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Introduction to Building Strength for the Journey Series

“I think it’s time I started an exercise routine.”

That’s what my brother said a few years ago when he approached me about his desire to purchase a Bowflex machine.

My response, “Are you kidding? There’s no way we can afford it!”

Still he persisted, “But ‘Dess, I really believe the Holy Spirit is challenging me to start an exercise program that would be good for my body but also relieve a lot of my mental stress. With my foot making it difficult for me to walk, I really believe this would be the best way for me to exercise.”

So we started looking at the cost of exercise equipment online.

Quickly we realized that we were both right. The Bowflex machine was a good choice for him; however, we still didn’t have the money.

So we shelved the idea---sort of. Over the course of the next week we talked about it, but weren’t sure how we could do more than that.

Then God did a miracle.

I remember we were out running errands---grocery shopping, returning items. I think I was at Staples purchasing office supplies when Jamie decided to go into a Sporting Goods Store just to look around. While he was browsing, a gentleman came up to him and said, “I retired a few weeks ago and the people at my office gave me this gift card to buy golf equipment. Now that I’m here I see that this store doesn’t sell the type of equipment I prefer, so if you want the gift card you can have it.”

Jamie was shocked, but thanked the man and went on his way.

It wasn’t until we were both back in the car and we called the toll free number to see how much the gift card was worth that we realized what an incredible miracle had just occurred. Turns out, the gift card was worth almost $500.00! When we combined that gift card with a coupon that arrived in Jamie’s email inbox that afternoon, we were able to purchase the Bowflex Machine that Jamie wanted and only pay for part of the shipping!

Talk about a miracle!!!

At a time in his life when my brother really needed an outlet to improve his physical and mental fitness, God literally GAVE him the equipment that would help him meet his goals. Even two years later, my brother still uses the machine to help him strengthen his body and relax his mind. What an incredible blessing!!!

Still, there’s one thing that I’ve learned about exercise equipment. While it was an amazing miracle and a reason for celebration that God provided our family with this machine, having the machine in our house didn’t automatically make us physically fit. (I know, disappointing, isn’t it?) The fact is that having this machine all set up in our basement looking strong and shiny doesn’t do anything to improve anyone’s body or relax anyone’s mind. It’s only when we take time out of our busy lives, go downstairs, and use the machine the way it was intended that we derive any of it’s benefits and move toward the goal of physical or mental health.

You know, the same thing that’s true in the physical realm with the Bowflex Machine that God gave our family, is true in the spiritual realm.

You see, just like God graciously provided my brother with an expensive piece of exercise equipment so that he could work on his physical fitness, God has provided all of His children with the tools and equipment necessary to improve their spiritual fitness. These tools are called Spiritual Disciples.

Now I know we’re all familiar with some of the Spiritual Disciplines available to us, like Prayer and Bible Reading. There are also many other Spiritual Disciplines that God has given us that may sound unfamiliar to some Christians---things like journaling, the discipline of silence, or the application of Hermeneutics. Yet, whether we’re familiar with them or not, all of these things and more are tools---pieces of spiritual exercise equipment that God has provided for us and put at our disposal to help us grow stronger in our spiritual lives.

Still, here’s the thing---even though God made all of these spiritual disciplines available to us, just like the Bowflex Machine has no value unless it is used, the spiritual disciplines God has given do not benefit our spiritual lives unless we discipline ourselves to consistently use them.

That’s why I believe the Holy Spirit is leading to us journey together through a study on the Spiritual Disciplines that are available to us and how we can practically incorporate these spiritual disciplines into our lives.

No, this will not be a series of guilt trips condemning you for not spending enough time in prayer or reading the Bible. (Because let’s be honest, guilt trips have never motivated anyone.)

Instead, this journey will help you explore and understand the benefits of various Spiritual Disciplines and hopefully whet your appetite to give these spiritual disciplines a try and see the benefits you’ll derive in your own spiritual life. Because ultimately---that’s what it’s about---the healthy growth that each of us can gain from spiritual exercises---not just going through the motions out of guilt.

1 Timothy 4:8 says “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

I like the way the Message puts it, “Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever.”

So consider this your invitation.

You are cordially invited to join us as we check out some of the spiritual exercise equipment that God has provided. Together, we’ll see how each Spiritual Discipline works and talk about ways that we can practically and consistently incorporate these disciplines into our lives.

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