Key Verse: But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.
1 Timothy 4:7-8
We live in challenging times, don't we? The news headlines are scary and depressing. Worldviews of so many people run contrary to God. We've redefined tolerance to mean accepting someone else's religious/non-religious views, instead of accepting the person will disagree with you while you maintain your own position. Behavior is done in broad daylight that would have only been done in the shadows (2 Peter 2:13). What a world we live in. Not just our world, but our churches reflect more of the world than Jesus Christ. As Christians, we are a rather weak bunch. Yet we may live here, but this is place is not our home. There is so much more for us to gain from living now, if we exercise our spiritual muscle.
My first husband and I ministered to two troubled churches, and between those two, worked with a church that suffered from problems that left them as a shattered shell. The common threads among all of them: letting false teachings weave their way into the fabric of the church, ruling matriarchs and patriarchs of the church calling all the shots, contention with the spiritual leaders God brought to them, and pride. The two established ones were already in decline before we got there. The one for renewal reeled in the wake of false doctrines and pain. It was tough work, no doubt about it. We received wise counsel from pastors and denomination officials about the appropriate ways to handle problem situations, and we followed them. In spite of it, we were emotionally and spiritually battered from the two established churches. The small band of faithful in the church renewal were battle-weary when we came. Our job was to keep pointing people to Christ while teaching the basic truths of the Bible. All too often pastors and their families have left the ministry due to similar issues. Some have walked away from their faith altogether. But not all, there were some who became stronger. What we had in common with those who stood well: knowing who God is and how He has been faithful to us in the past. We can only know this from understanding the Bible well while observing what God has done in the past.
Passage: 1Timothy 4:1-11
Nothing new is happening now compared to Paul and Timothy's day during the establishment of the early church. Timothy was given charge of a church in Ephesus to minister to them. Paul encourages and instructs Timothy how best to minister to this particular church. There were outside groups infiltrating his congregation propagating doctrines opposed to the basic Christian doctrine Paul had taught. Some were Jews who converted to Christ, but insisted that all believers follow the old Jewish laws. Some were local religious thought and superstitions brought in from the people in the region of Ephesus who meshed it with their newfound Christian faith. Timothy had a big job on his hands! Contentious churches are a headache for pastors, this was one of the earlier churches. Timothy was a young pastor who was a traveling companion for Paul. Paul took the time to mentor him in his new ministry. The importance of ministering with authority, regardless of how the people treated him at his age, stands out.
As Christians, we are to set ourselves apart in our faith, knowing foundational truths of Christian doctrine. False teachings swirl in the air of our communities and churches.We are pressured by those around us to accept other beliefs flying in the face of Bible teachings. Wouldn't it be easier to accept New Age Spirituality or Hindu and Zen beliefs from exercise classes, alternative health practitioners, and even a massage therapist we know? It is mainstream. Why not go with the flow? God calls us to do the harder thing: swim upstream. Physical exercise is important for our physical health, but one day we will die losing all we gained. Our spiritual health is at stake.That has eternal value.
Our churches must be well-grounded in the truths of God's Word. Pastors have a big job shepherding believers in their spiritual care. What Timothy walked into as a young pastor isn't much different than many of our American churches. The doctrines of ME, MYSELF, and I, astrology, New Age, along with a dose of superstition vie for first place over the Bible. People flock to church for the "fluff" as opposed to the substance of ministry in the church.Yoga classes, traditional martial arts classes, and eastern meditation groups have weaseled their way into God's house.Oh, my! Who let the wolves in? Our pastors are the guardians of God's truth and the spiritual safety of the flock in their charge.
The church is the body of Christ. The church isn't about the style music, the activities, or special events that entertain us. It's not about our beautiful million dollar facilities or our holiday decor. It's about following Jesus Christ and ministering to the true needs of the people who come from our communities. What would we do if the church was forced underground? How many people would stick with their church then? We must support our pastor and elders as they maintain the focus of the true church. Tell them thank you. Be their shield bearers in prayer. Spiritual exercise strengthens the body of Christ.
Guarding our minds, hearts, and spirits takes time and attention. Last year, I wrote posts about practicing Christian spiritual disciplines. They are tools we can use to place ourselves before God to be spiritually transformed by Him. These are not steps to heaven. There is nothing we can do on our own to grow, but God grows us, shapes us, molds us more in the image of His Son. Place yourself before Him today.
We need to exercise our spiritual muscle. We must know what we claim to believe. Our faith in Christ will be challenged. It will be shaken to the core at some point in time. Christians around the world have already been tested to deny their faith in Christ, only to lose their lives for our Savior. A hardcore spiritual workout is in order that we may stand regardless of the pressures coming our way. Believe me, they will. Will you stand firm? How is your spiritual muscle?
May God bless you!
Spiritual Discipline Series: