A Disciple’s Spiritual Fitness Course, Pt. 4
Study Guide, March 5, 2023
Pastor Clay Olsen
Yogi Berra…when you hear the name many will recognize it as the Baseball Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees, who later served as a Manager and Coach for other teams as well. But he is also known for what is called his ‘Yogi-isms’…his memorable sayings that, well, were just ‘off of home plate’ a little bit you might say. Here are some examples: “If people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them.” Here’s another one he said: “A home opener is always exciting, no matter if it’s home or on the road.” And he said of one player, “He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious!” Or when he was out on the ballfield he said, “It gets late early out here.” Another time he said: “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” But his most famous Yogi-ism is no doubt what he said about playing the game of baseball itself. He said: “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.”
There you go! Now, that adds up, right? But the thing is, everyone always got the gist of whatever it was he said, even though what he said oftentimes sounded a little unusual. But oftentimes when you talk to people about having a spiritual fitness program or following a spiritual fitness course, they think that sounds a little off, maybe a bit unusual, too. But that’s just because people don’t often attribute the same importance to staying spiritually fit as they do to staying physically fit. Yet, how irrational to focus on the fitness of the body without also focusing on the fitness of the soul! The human being is not body only, but body and soul…two parts – ‘dichotomous! Actually, a Born-Again follower of Christ is really body, soul, and spirit…three parts -‘trichotomous’. You could say a person who has not yet been Born-Again is also a ‘trichotomous’ being, but in a different sense, since his or her ‘spirit’ is still ‘dead’ or ‘separated’ from the life of Christ. But notice how a Christ follower, or one who has had his or her spirit brought to life in union with Christ, is described in 1 Thess. 5:23- “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” NASU And notice the order here…spirit, soul, body. Each part is to be cared for as best as we are able, but still, there is to be a priority in the ‘fitness focus’ for each…spirit, soul, and body!
But, again, the point is that it is only rational and logical that, as Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ…that we focus on the spiritual fitness of our lives just as much as on the physical fitness of our lives…even more so, as we see in our theme passage. 1 Tim 4:7-10- “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
And so this brings us back to our exercises for the third discipline of the Disciple’s Fitness Course. But let’s review the five disciplines:
The Discipline of Bible study training.
The Discipline of Intercessory prayer.
The Discipline of Body life and service.
The Discipline of Sowing the seed of the Gospel.
The Discipline of Giving; tithes and offerings.
And do you remember the acrostic? BIBSG! That’s our new spiritual fitness word: BIBSG! Okay, so let’s now identify some exercises in order to be spiritually fit in the discipline of Body life and service. And, of course, it begins with our identity in this discipline, remember? A Christian is a ‘Family Member’ of God’s Kingdom Family. And naturally, along with being a ‘Family Member’ comes responsibilities of being a member of God’s family. And certainly, we have the responsibility to represent our God and His will to all people around us, as well as to seek to do good to all people around us, but we have a particular responsibility to one particular people. What do we mean? We go to what the Apostle Paul revealed about it in Gal 6:10- “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” NASU And for even more clarification, look at how the NLT puts it: “Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.”
So there we have it, our marching orders, or our spiritual exercise program for this Discipline of Body life and service. Now, I didn’t count them, but others have, and they have found that in the New Testament there are 59 ‘One Another’ instructions to the family of God. That’s right…59 instructions or ‘responsibilities’ of believers to act on in relation to their fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ! We have printed them out and will include them in the Study Guides. Now, in reading through them you might wonder about one of them – the curious mention of ‘greeting one another with a holy kiss’. That always sounds a bit odd to us in America. But in Middle Eastern culture and even some European countries, this expression of friendship is quite common. But in Western culture…not so much. It simply referred to a expression of friendship and fellowship, much like our handshakes or hugs. Just a little clarification there to put you at ease…
But as for these 59 instructions, for one thing, if you have ever wondered what a Follower of Christ ought to be doing with their time and life…well, here are 59 activities to get you started…and to keep you moving in your ministry to the family of God. Plus, in relation to our Spiritual Fitness Course, we could also view these as ‘59 exercises’ that are essential to our Spiritual Fitness. For these ‘One Another’ exercises…and also ‘commandments’, are given to each of us by God, who is our ultimate ‘Personal Trainer’. And remember how merciful and helpful our God is about it all, because God has not only given us this ‘spiritual work-out program’ for our lives, He has also promised to assist us as we put forth the effort to do these exercises. Remember that great encouragement of Eph 3:20- “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” NLT
A lot of these ‘one another’s’ seem to be beyond what we think we can pull off or actually do. And we would be thinking right about that! Just saying… But, Praise God, there is more at work in you and in me than you and I often think there is! God is at work in His children and through His children, if His children will do what He is calling us to do. And here’s the thing: we do it not by our might, nor by our strength, but by His power through our faith! Amen? Which also means then that we are to act, not by how we feel about what we are to do for ‘one other’, but we are to act in faith about whatever God calls for us to do for ‘one another’! And ‘Faith’ takes us much further than our ‘feelings’ ever could or possibly can!
Interestingly enough, the Navy Seals have a rule that’s called ‘The 40% Rule’. The 40% rule states: ‘When your mind is telling you that you’re done, that you’re exhausted, that you cannot possibly go any further, you’re only actually 40% done.’ And it goes on to explain that the human mind is an amazing thing. It both propels us forward and holds us back. The 40% rule reminds us that no matter how exhausted we might feel, it is always possible to draw on an untapped reserve of energy, motivation, and drive that we all possess. Actually, many businesses also use this rule in their employee training, and sports programs use it with their athletes, and so on.
Now then, since our God so graciously created the natural man with such remarkable resources, how much more will God do and work through the spiritual man, the believer who has had his or her spirit and soul reborn and reunited to God’s own life and spirit? How much more will God help us to exercise these 59 ‘one another’s’ in our spiritual fitness workouts in serving and ministering to God’s other family members? How much more? Well, remember, like this much more: “(For our God) is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. To Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Eph 3:20-21 NKJV
How often have you heard people in the Gym say something like: “I didn’t think I could lift that amount of weight”, or “I didn’t think I could do that many reps…” Or a Marathon runner say, “I didn’t think I had anything left at 16 miles, but something helped me finish the 26th!” Again, if that happens in the natural realm, just think what can happen in the supernatural realm, where God’s athletes choose to act in faith to exercise their spiritual gifts and talents and abilities to build up the body of Christ in obedience to God and in blessings to all. Plus, as God’s people work on building up one another spiritually and physically, a watching world then sees what a Kingdom Man or a Kingdom Woman looks like as they serve their King and others around them.
But to do Kingdom works. or to do Kingdom exercises in the doing of good to all men, and especially to those in the household of faith, we must not be ‘feelings driven’ about it but be ‘faith driven’ about it. In using 40% Rule analogy, your feelings will run out at about 40%. And that’s when you need to draw upon the 60%, or to act upon your faith in the promises of God’s Word and rely upon the power of God’s Spirit to enable you to obey your God 100%!
Now, we’re just using this as an illustration of course, but you get the gist of what we’re saying: feelings alone won’t get you to obedience. And we’re using ‘feelings’ in the sense of our emotions, thoughts, personal opinions…basically, our human reasoning about things. That’s basically the human default way of dealing with life…it’s the natural way that people deal with other people. But that will only take you 40% of where you need to go, or how you need to deal with others, or even to rightly act upon your discipleship. And yet even Christians so often just do what’s natural to them in how they treat other’s around them and even those in the household of faith. It’s like they are only giving about 40% of the effort that they ought to be giving in how they are treating others, because that’s as far as their feelings and reasoning will take them. Rather, we need to go past our feelings and act upon our faith…act upon God’s revelation and God’s instructions, all the while relying upon the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to think, do, and say what we need to be thinking, doing, and saying to all people, but especially to our fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ! Remember, Jesus never asked His disciples if they liked each other before He commanded them to love one another, meaning – to sacrificially serve one another.
In order for you to 100% obey God, the bulk of your daily spiritual exercises, at least the 60% of it, is going to have to be done by faith over and above your 40% natural feelings tendencies! Certainly, it all should be ‘by faith’, but you get what we’re saying here. Don’t let your natural feelings or attitude or opinions about others, especially about your eternal family members, determine how far you go in doing good for them and in serving them. Reach deeper into the resources of your faith, and of God’s instructions, and rely upon God’s power to do what God is holding you responsible for doing in your ‘One Another’ ministry as a Family Member of His Kingdom family!
As a Disciple of Jesus Christ and a Family Member of God’s family we each have a ‘One Another’ ministry! And God is looking for each of us to become more and more spiritually fit in practicing these 59 ‘one another’s’! And this is a life-long course, of course, but we do it by exercising in it a little bit every day. And although, some of it may seem a little daunting, here is some encouragement by another personal trainer of ours, the Apostle Paul. Look what he says to you and to me about all of this. “Personally I am satisfied about you, my brethren, that you yourselves are rich in goodness, amply filled with all [spiritual] knowledge and competent to admonish and counsel and instruct one another also.” Rom 15:14 AMP It’s like Paul is saying to us: “You got this…by the grace of God of course…but you can do this! Just one more rep…just one more mile…just one more lift of your Brother’s burden…just one more prayer for your Sister’s need…just one more message of counsel or encouragement, just one more day of devotion to your Lord and Savior…and so on. And don’t just do it when or if you feel like it, do it by faith in obedience to your God and for the sake of your Savior. Show love to one another, whether you like them or not. This is how the world will know that this is different, that you are different, that you must be a follower of Christ. (Jn 13:35) Honor one another above yourself, while most people are trying to exult themselves above others. (Rom.12:10) Be forgiving toward one another, instead of holding grudges like those in the world without God naturally do. (Eph 4:32) In humility consider others more important than yourself, and stop focusing on just your own interests, but also of the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:3)
Those are just a few examples of the exercises God has given us to do, to both develop in our spiritual fitness and to be vessels of usefulness in our service to God. And remember, it is really God Himself working through us as He seeks to accomplish these ‘one another’s’ in others around us. You see, God wants others to experience His love, but He has chosen to do that through you and me. And if we let our feelings of if we like someone or not determine how far we will go, then we have limited what God is trying to do through us. God wants others around us to experience how significant and valued they are to Him by using us to communicate that to them by how we talk to them and how we treat them. But if we only do that as far as we feel good about someone then we have denied God’s intention to get their attention through us. And God wants to show others something of the lengths that Jesus Christ went to in His sacrifice for the forgiveness of sinners by having us offering the sacrifice of forgiveness to those who sin against us. But if we simply hold grudges and harbor bitterness against them we then close the door to God in His desire to use us to show them something of His love and forgiveness which can change their life for good, perhaps forever!
The ‘One Another’ commandments for us to obey are primarily about the ‘One’ who loves us, about the ‘One’ who died for us, about the ‘One’ who saved us, and then calls us to no longer live for ourselves, but to live for Him by living out His ‘One Another’ instructions for our lives. Whatever we do for ‘one another’ we also do for the ‘One’ who is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And the more that we seek to do this, the stronger and more spiritually fit we become, the more the family of God is built up, and the more a watching world will witness God at work through His Family Members.
And remember something that will help you with your ‘one another exercises’: Behind every person…behind every ‘one’ that you serve, is thee ‘One’ who loves you and gave His life for you so that you could become His child forever. So whatever you do, and whoever it is that you are serving, do it first for Jesus, and that will push you way past the 40% rule.