A Disciple’s Spiritual Fitness Course, Pt. 2

A Disciple’s Spiritual Fitness Course, Pt. 2

Study Guide, February 12, 2023

Pastor Clay Olsen


People think about ‘fitness’ in different ways. One commented: “I just saw three people jogging outside, and it inspired me to get up and close the blinds.” Another said: “Exercise in the morning before your brain figures out what you are doing.” And one said: “Oh, did you say ‘Exercise’? I thought you said ‘Extra Fries’. Or this guy put it this way: “I’m trying to simplify my life. I condensed my six pack abs into one!” Then, you have a little more upbeat statements like: “Life is short. Lift heavy things!” And “Fall in love with the process, and the results will come.” Or, “The only bad workout is the one that didn’t happen.” Or then there’s the Marine’s take on it all: “Pain is just weakness leaving the body.” Oorah!

Either way, fitness definitely is a discipline of life. And when you think about ‘disciplines’, who should be more committed to life’s disciplines than Disciples of Jesus Christ? Particularly, committed to the disciplines that develop Spiritual Fitness.

So here we go with some more exercises in our exploration of the 5 Disciplines of Spiritual Fitness.

We were discussing the Discipline of Bible study training in our last study time together. So let’s continue on that one…But first, let’s read the theme passage again:1 Tim 4:7-9- “Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. This is true, and everyone should accept it.” NLT

Now, it’s really interesting how the Living Bible puts it. Listen to this: 1 Tim 4:7-9- “Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit. Bodily exercise is all right, but spiritual exercise is much more important and is a tonic for all you do. So exercise yourself spiritually, and practice being a better Christian because that will help you not only now in this life, but in the next life too.” TLB

A tonic? How about that? One of the definitions of a tonic is, ‘a medicine that strengthens and invigorates’. Well, that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Who couldn’t use some of that? Well, Paul says that there is a way to get strengthened and invigorated for all of the things you have to do in life: train yourself in Spiritual Fitness. Practice the Disciplines of Spiritual Fitness and it will be a tonic for all you do. You’ll experience spiritual endorphins.

What are endorphins? By definition an endorphin is a neurochemical occurring naturally in the brain and having analgesic properties. There’s that ‘tonic’ idea again. But what a great benefit God has built into being spiritually disciplined. When we put some spiritual effort into getting our spiritual act together, not only does it bless God and bless our family and others around us, but these spiritual endorphins are activated which then strengthen and invigorate us as well. It even acts like an analgesic, relieving the pain that comes from battling the world, the flesh, and the devil. What a deal!

We were looking at the Bible in terms of the fact that the Bible represents what God wants us to know about the Past, Present, and the Future. Just think, God spoke the world and Universe into existence in 6 days, but He took over 1,500 years to speak the Scriptures into existence through His prophets and apostles. The Scriptures, the Word of God, the Bible is the ultimate wonder of the Universe! This eternal book contains the very words of God! And it is more valuable than all the planets and galaxies in the Universe put together. And we have it right in our own hands! So our goal…or our fitness goal is – to get more and more of what is in our hands into more and more of our hearts and our minds.

So let’s dig into the treasure. Let’s consider ‘The Past’. As you grow in your spiritual fitness, your focus of Biblical study should be on learning and understanding more about what God has revealed to us in His Word about ‘The Past’. Remember history is really “His Story!” You know, many Christians need to sort of make up with the Old Testament. They don’t seem to get along very well with the Old Testament. The Old Testament is probably the least understood body of literature in print. It’s gotten a bad rap from many people. There are a lot of believers who need to fall in love afresh with the Old Testament, and for some others, to fall in love anew with it.

Here’s a clue as to how you can tell if you have come to the place where you have the right attitude toward the Old Testament. When you can embrace these next statements as your own, then you’ll be in a right relationship with the Old Testament:

Ps 119:14-16- “I delight in following your commands more than in having great wealth. I study your instructions; I examine your teachings. I take pleasure in your laws; Your commands I will not forget.” TEV

Ps 119:97-100- “Oh, how I love your law! I think about it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for your commands are my constant guide. Yes, I have more insight than my teachers, for I am always thinking of your decrees. I am even wiser than my elders, for I have kept your commandments.”

Ps 119:103- “How sweet are your words to my taste; they are sweeter than honey.

Ps 105-106 – “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path. I’ve promised it once, and I’ll promise again: I will obey your wonderful laws.” NLT

That, of course, was the Psalmist’s attitude toward the Old Testament. A man, who in fact, God called, “a man after God’s own heart.” But think about it, since David lived about 1,000 BC it means he was referring mostly to the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, and perhaps the writings of Job, as well. He loved the writings of Genesis and Numbers and even Leviticus!

Do you remember what the Apostle Paul said about the Old Testament?

Rom 15:4- “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” NASU Paul links three specific virtues or qualities to the instruction we receive from the Old Testament: perseverance, encouragement, and hope! Do you see what he is saying? When you have a diet that leaves out certain food groups, like vegetables and such, you then become deficient in some important vitamins and helps for the body. In a similar way, a spiritual diet that doesn’t include feeding on the Old Testament can be the reason for a deficiency in perseverance and encouragement and even hope!

In our quick fix, instant gratification society, most people are pretty deficient in perseverance and encouragement and hope. But if you are feeding on say, the book of Numbers, you come across a guy like Caleb, who had the promise from God to enter the Promised Land. But because of the unfaithfulness of his comrades, he had to wander around a desert serving a bunch of grumblers for 40 years before he ever tasted of the promise. But he did it, and he did it obediently, and he built up a powerful testimony of faith. Caleb’s life is a picture of perseverance and encouragement and hope.

One thing we learn from the Old Testament is that God is not in a hurry. He grows things, sometimes slowly, but eternally! The instruction of the Old Testament characters teaches us to slow down in our expectations about what we think God ought to be doing and when. And when we slow down our expectations…guess what…it revs up our perseverance, as well as our ability to be encouraged, and then to also be better able to encourage others. Plus, we grow stronger in hope because we know that God is still working on our behalf and we can trust God in that, and we can trust His promises and His timing just like Caleb did. And as we trust and obey God, God will then single you out and say to others like He did with Caleb: Num 14:24- “But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.” NIV How wonderful to hear God say that, right?

Now certainly, every child of God is special to God. But some are also different. Through their persistent faith and their disciplines of obedience, they have a different spirit. It’s a spirit that has been developed and tested and toughened because of their loyalty, their trust, their perseverance, and their love for God and for God’s Word. Could God say that about you? God has a lot of Born-Again children, and He loves them all. But not all of them are as obedient and disciplined as He desires them to be. And yet, some are striving to be that…striving to trust and obey their Savior more and more. And, you see, that is the difference that gives them a ‘different spirit’, which then delights their Savior and will be greatly rewarded by their Savior for all of their diligence and discipline.

So the Old Testament reveals what God wants us to know about things like His creation of the Universe and His plans for it all. In fact, the rest of the Bible is really the expansion of God’s purposes for the world and the development of the institutions that He created and established in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. We really need to get to know those eleven chapters. It is also from the Old Testament that we learn much about the character of God, as we see Him dealing with people and nations.

It is the strangest thing how some people think God sort of underwent a personality change in the New Testament. Like they think the God of the Old Testament was a God of judgment, but in the New Testament He somehow changed into a God of love. But the Jehovah of the Old Testament is the same Jehovah of the New Testament. Jesus said: “I tell you the truth…before Abraham was born, I am!” John 8:58 And Heb 13:8 tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” NLT God does not change. God has not changed. Certainly, His plans for the nations, for Israel, and for the Church, have developmental differences and promises specific to God’s plans for each. But as for God Himself, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Seek to understand what God was doing in the past, what He wants you to understand about the past, and what it means for your life today. Remember the age- old proverb; ‘You cannot understand the present without understanding the past.’ And, as has been aptly stated: The New Testament is in the Old Testament concealed, and the Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed.

We also need to look at studying the Scriptures to find out everything God wants us to know about The Present. Listen to a few of the Proverbs about that:

Prov 4:7- “Getting wisdom is the most important thing you can do! And whatever else you do, get good judgment.” NLT

Prov 2:2-5- “Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight and understanding. Search for them as you would for lost money or hidden treasure. Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God.” NASU

Remember, wisdom is the application of knowledge. So when you acquire God’s knowledge about life in the present, commit also to applying that knowledge to your present life, and you’ll then acquire wisdom. Like: What kinds of things are we looking for in the Scriptures specifically about the present that we can apply? We should be looking for things such as; Is there: A promise I can call my own; A command for me to obey; A blessing I can enjoy; A failure from which I can learn; A sin I should keep away from; A victory for me to win; A new thought about the Father, the Lord Jesus, or the Holy Spirit; A new insight about human nature or our Angel allies or about Satan and his demonic forces; or A truth in the passage that has greatly affected me?

Think of it this way; Yes, the Bible is God’s revelation to mankind, but it is also, and specifically, it is God’s personal letter from God to you. In fact, it is the most personal letter you could ever receive. It is from the infinitely powerful and wonderful Creator who knows everything there is about you; every deed you have ever done, every thought you have ever thought, every feeling you have ever felt, every intention you ever had, and still He loves you more than anyone on earth or in heaven ever could. Your Creator, Redeemer, and Perfect Parent wants the ‘eternal best life’ for you; and His letter is His explanation of what that ‘eternal best life’ is all about. The Scriptures are everything God wants you to know about walking with your God in the blessing of obedience in the present tense. The key word here is – Obedience. Yes, obedience is an acquired taste. But it is one that a Disciple grows to love. Just like the Psalmist said: “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him!” Ps 34:8 And as Dr. Warren Wiersbe often said: “Make duty your delight…for then you can find joy in everything!”

And then last for this part of the study, the Scriptures also represent everything God wants you and me to know about the Future. Actually, God really enjoys telling His people about future things. He even likes us to think about Him that way. What do we mean? Check it out…

Isa 42:9- “The things I predicted have now come true. Now I will tell you of new things even before they begin to happen.” TEV

Isa 43:12-13- “First I predicted your deliverance; I declared what I would do, and then I did it — I saved you. No foreign god has ever done this before. You are witnesses that I am the only God,” says the LORD. “From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can oppose what I do. No one can reverse my actions.” NLT

Isa 46:10- “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘ My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure…” NASU

The Scriptures are not only ‘nouthetic’, from the Greek work ‘noutheteo’, which means admonish, warn, correct, exhort, and instruct, but they are also prophetic. About one third of the Bible is Prophecy! And everything that God has prophesied in the past about the present has presently come true. And thus, everything that God has prophesied at present about the future is also going to come true. That’s why Peter said 2 Peter 3:9-13- “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise to return, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so He is giving more time for everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and everything in them will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be exposed to judgment. Since everything around us is going to melt away, what holy, godly lives you should be living! You should look forward to that day and hurry it along — the day when God will set the heavens on fire and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth He has promised, a world where everyone is right with God.” NLT

The Bible clearly reveals that the world as we know it is on the verge of an eternal change. The changes that the Earth has undergone so far are nothing compared to what it’s about to undergo, perhaps soon. It’s described as being a New Earth, with a New King, the Lord Jesus Christ over all the Earth, with New Heavens to enjoy and to even explore and develop, with new nations living upon the earth serving God and cooperating with each other, and with God’s family worshipping and working together, and finally carrying out God’s original plan for His creation! This is God’s plan, and this is our future!

We have to wrap it up here for now. The point is that God wants us to learn everything we can about what He has revealed to us in His Scriptures about this magnificent future He has planned, as well as about the past and the present. And then to share as much about it with others as we possibly can.

And as God watches us learning and living faithfully, trying to be spiritually fit for God’s service, He will then say something like this about you to others: “But my servant (and put your name here) is different from the others. He/She has a different spirit, and has remained loyal to Me, and will receive the full share of his/her inheritance.”