Summary: We are to train for godliness like we train our bodies in the gym. I use the analogy of physical training to explain spiritual training.
[Note to pastors: This sermon started a new ministry. In this sermon I invited people to share in a ?distance devotional program.? See point 8. I had over 400 families sign up for this!]
Can you believe it is the last Sunday of 1998? There are just 5 days left until 1999.
It is resolution time.
How many of you set goals? Can I see the hands of those of you who try to set a goal for the New Year?
How many of you have ever set a goal to lose weight or get in shape?
How many of you have ever set a goal to lose weight or get in shape and nothing happened?
I have. Three years in a row I set a goal to get in shape. Three years in a row nothing changed. But this past year was different. I resolved to get in shape, and big changes were made.
SLIDE (I had fun with this. I showed a slide of a sumo wrestler with my head on it. Then I showed a slide of a body-builder with my head on it - got a lot of laughs)
I?m twenty pounds lighter, at least 80% stronger, and have much more endurance.
Each year I also resolve to get in spiritual shape. And I?m not the only one. For thousands of years, God?s people have been stretching spiritual muscles through a variety of exercises. Today?s text proves it. It is (1 Tim 4:7, 8; p. 840 in pew Bible. You can also find it at the top of your bulletin).
The Apostle Paul writes, ? . . . train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come"
The Greek word for ?training? is ?gumnasia.? (goom-nas-ee-ah). This is the word we get for gymnasium. We are to put ourselves into a gymnasium for training in godliness.
This past year I?ve learned a great deal from my physical transformation that has also helped me spiritually. In fact, I?ve discovered that physical training provides a helpful metaphor for spiritual training. There are many principles of physical health that have spiritual corollaries. Here are ten application points (yes 10 -- last point is Reward Yourslef) of physical conditioning that have helped me grow spiritually as well.
1. SET THE RIGHT GOAL
I set goals in the years I had failed to get in physical shape, but they were the wrong kind.
I?d set goals like ?run four days a week? or ?lift weights every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.? I discovered several problems with goals like these.
First, they didn?t inspire me.
Second, it was easy to believe I failed if I missed a day or two.
Third, I hadn?t really set goals; I had made plans. I had confused the means for the end.
So when I set my physical goal this year, I changed it from how often I would exercise to what I wanted to look like.
Similarly I?ve missed spiritual goals I?ve set, such as ?read 5 chapters in the Bible everyday? or ?pray a half-hour a day.?
Again, I wasn?t inspired.
I felt as if I failed if I missed a day or more,
and I had confused the means for the end. I noticed even another trap with these kinds of spiritual goals. If I was doing well, I had the tendency to be prideful about it -- the exact opposite effect it should have.
So taking a cue from my physical goal, I realized I needed to change my spiritual goal too.
So for those of you who have set goals like I have and have felt as I have, I recommend that you CHANGE YOUR SPIRITUAL GOAL FROM HOW MUCH YOU WILL READ AND PRAY TO WHAT YOU WANT TO BE LIKE -- MORE LIKE JESUS.
The notion of spirituality can be so vague, (America is becoming more spiritual but less Christian) but when I say getting in spiritual shape as a Christian, I explicitly mean becoming like Jesus. This should be the goal of every Christian. You might have a unique way of phrasing your goal, but the core and motive for it should be becoming like Jesus. I suppose this can best be revealed by your love for God -- measured by obedience, (John 14:15) and your love for others -- measured by service (Matt 23:11).
2. HAVE A COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
This past January I met with a personal trainer and told him my goal. He explained two keys to attaining my goal.
1) Have a plan and stick to it. Having a plan kept me focused. When I rolled out of bed, I didn?t have to wonder what I would eat that day, if I should run or not, or what kind of strength training I should do. Having a plan gave me the freedom to act. I wasn?t stuck trying to come up with something to do.