In any physical training programme it is recognised that fitness is the result of diet, exercise, resistance training and rest. Underpinning these are the initial motivation to get fit and the ongoing commitment to change unhelpful patterns and replace them with health inducing habits. That initial motivation may come from a ‘health scare’ or a desire for sustained ‘wellness’ and energy. The ongoing work of change requires effort, encouragement, and a sustainable programme of diet and exercise. With spiritual ‘fitness’ these same elements are also important.
Motivation: The motivation for the twelve disciples in following Jesus was to become like him – to be able to teach what he taught, do what he did, think as he thought and love as he loved. All Christians are disciples. Although we no longer are able to be with Jesus physically, the aims of discipleship remain unchanged. It is as we take his yoke upon us and learn from him that we find rest for our souls (Matthew 11:29) and as we remain in Jesus that we are fruitful on our frontlines (John 15:1-17).
Effort: The letters of both Paul and Peter contain many exhortations to become spiritually mature, with God’s help, through disciplined effort, for example 2 Peter 1:5-9: ‘For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is short-sighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.’
Encouragement: We all need encouragement to sustain us as we seek to grow, and it is an important part of the function of any group of believers to encourage each other and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Workplace groups have an invaluable role to play here. Also, the Holy Spirit is our encourager (Acts 9:31).
A sustainable programme: Inwardly (our personalities and preferences) and outwardly (our commitments and responsibilities) we are all different. Any programme we commit to needs to reflect this, as one size does not fit all. Yet without re-organising our lives at some level we are unlikely to create good lifelong spiritual habits to sustain us. Athletes do not get fit by accident but by design.