Near the beginning of 2018, a friend invited me to a small Facebook group comprised of people seeking to eat healthier and be more physically fit. For the month of March, the administrator posted a challenge for us to meet a daily step count or mileage goal. Prior to this challenge, I had been hitting my exercise goals roughly sixty percent of the time. Once the March challenge was set, that percentage spiked to around ninety percent!
What made the difference?
While I love encouraging healthy physical habits, it is far more beneficial to have a healthy soul. Are we training our minds and our hearts for godliness, or are we allowing ourselves to grow sluggish?
Paul wrote to Timothy, “Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4.7-10)
So how do we go about “training ourselves for godliness?”
- Daily Bible reading and study
- Daily prayer (alone and with others)
- Helping others
We make many efforts to be physically healthy, but do we put forth the same effort in our training for the Lord? If you find yourself falling short in any of these areas, maybe all you need is a little help from your friends. If accountability is so effective in physical training, why don’t we apply the same principles to our spiritual training?
Find an accountability partner
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up… And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
~ Ecclesiastes 4.9-12, ESV
I often hear (and have said myself), “I don’t pray like I should,” or “I need to study more.” If you are struggling to be consistent in these areas, get a fellow Christian to join you in the effort. One reason the Lord established the church is so we wouldn’t have to go through this life alone. When we work together with someone to get into spiritual shape, we will be far more effective than when we try going it alone.
Here are some ways to work together:
- Send a daily text or email message with a prayer request or comment on what you’ve read that day.
- Choose a scripture to memorize together and test each other until you both have it committed to memory.
- Set up a time each day to pray together or discuss what you’re studying that week.
- Meet for coffee or go for a walk together to review your progress.
- Set aside a couple days out of the month to work with your partner to encourage other Christians, practice hospitality, visit the elderly, or share the gospel with someone.
Every day presents new obstacles, but if we keep each other focused, consider how much closer we can come to knowing the Lord and having fellowship with Him.
A note of caution: Married individuals ought to work with their spouses or work with a friend of the same gender. Do not put yourself in a compromising situation. Spiritual intimacy and close proximity can to illicit relationships, so use good judgment. Temptation can creep in even through the best intentions.
What about arrogance, self-righteousness, and pride?
I think we all have a healthy fear of becoming self-righteous. Unfortunately, this fear often keeps us from building good habits because we’re afraid that any sort of “check-the-box” activity will lead to pride. We are in a battle zone. Satan often attempts to use our best efforts to lure us into arrogance or complacency.
If you decide to do some kind of accountability group, keep it small, keep it quiet, and remind one another of the goal—“to love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.”
As Paul said to Timothy, “godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Join together with fellow Christians to train yourselves in the ultimate exercise regimen and see what amazing things the Lord will work through your lives.
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.
Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
~ 1 Corinthians 9.24-27, NASB