We know consistent physical exercise keeps our body fit and contributes to our overall well-being. And we also know mental exercise like reading and solving crossword puzzles helps our mind stay sharp.
But did you know that as Christians, we need an additional kind of exercise? For a healthy Christian life, we need spiritual exercise.
Our human spirit
So what do we mean when we say spiritual exercise? We simply mean the exercise of our spirit.
God created us with a body to contact the physical realm, a soul to contact the psychological realm, and a spirit to contact the spiritual realm. Our human spirit, the deepest part of our being, has the unique ability to contact and receive God.
When we first believed in Jesus Christ, we were born of the Spirit. The Lord as the life-giving Spirit came into and was mingled with our spirit. After we’re born again, our Christian life is a life of continuously contacting the Lord, fellowshipping with Him, receiving more of Him, and living by Him.
So how can we contact the Lord?
We can contact the Lord by exercising, or using, our spirit, as John 4:24 tells us: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit.” Because God is Spirit, we must worship Him in our spirit—our deepest part, where Christ now lives. Our spirit is the key to our relationship with God. Using our spirit is the God-designed way for us to fellowship with Him, know Him, and experience Him.
Exercising our spirit is for a healthy Christian life
In terms of physical exercise, we’re all familiar with the expression use it or lose it. For example, if we stop using a particular muscle, that muscle becomes weaker, and eventually will atrophy. This abnormal condition is the result of neglecting to exercise that muscle. To be strong and healthy, we need to use our muscles.
In the same way, if we don’t exercise our spirit to contact the Lord and fellowship with Him, our spiritual health inevitably suffers. The less we exercise our spirit, the weaker we become. As a result, we’re more prone to sin, the temptations of the world, and other spiritual “ailments.” How can we be healthy—much less grow in the Lord—if we aren’t regularly contacting Him by exercising our spirit?
Exercise requires effort
Actually, physical exercise benefits us most when it becomes a habit. The same is true of spiritual exercise. But we can’t build up a habit of using our spirit if we only contact the Lord when we’re met with major problems. Exercising our spirit benefits us most when it’s part of our daily life and not a special event or something that we do at isolated times.
And with any kind of exercise, some effort and deliberate action is required. For example, we don’t usually wake up eager to go for a run. Sometimes we have to exert ourselves just to get our running shoes on. Once we take the deliberate action to get started, we’re soon out the door and on our way.
Using our spirit in our daily walk doesn’t come naturally to us, and sometimes it’s even difficult. It’s a lot easier to stay in our anxious thoughts or unhappy feelings when we’re worried or upset. But that’s the perfect time for us to exercise our spirit, to actively and deliberately turn to the Lord to contact Him and receive more of Him right in the middle of our situation.
What are some practical ways to exercise our spirit?
Though there are numerous forms of spiritual exercise, today we’ll discuss five ways:
1. Praying to the Lord
The best way to exercise our spirit is by praying. We may assume the right way to pray is to compose a formal prayer while we’re in a particular place. But we actually can exercise our spirit at any moment, in any place, to speak to the Lord in prayer about anything and everything. In this way, we contact Him in our spirit and receive more of Him.
2. Calling on the Lord
Calling on the name of the Lord is a great way to exercise our spirit. To call on the Lord is simply to call His name, “Lord Jesus, oh, Lord Jesus.” When we call on Him even just for a little while, we’re brought to Him in our spirit. By calling on Him, we’re refreshed and supplied with more of His life.
3. Pray-reading God’s Word
Pray-reading, which is simply to read and pray over the words of the Bible, is an excellent way to exercise our spirit. As we read God’s Word, we can turn what we read into our prayer to the Lord.
Let’s use Matthew 4:4 as an example: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out through the mouth of God.” We can pray with these words like this: “Lord, man shall not live on bread alone. Thank You, Lord, I do not live on bread alone, but on every word out of Your mouth. Thank You, Lord, for every word! Cause me to hunger for Your Word.”
Pray-reading the Word of God is good exercise for our spirit and nourishes us. Starting our day with this kind of exercise helps us be spiritually fit.
An enjoyable way to exercise our spirit is singing to the Lord. If we feel tired and unhappy when we wake up, singing helps us shake off our sleepiness, brightens our mood, and turns us to the Lord. It activates our spirit and enriches our enjoyment of the Lord.
Throughout the day we can exercise our spirit by singing a hymn or a short song to the Lord. For instance, we can learn and sing this song about Emmanuel to the Lord and be reminded that He is with our spirit.
5. Thanking the Lord
We can also exercise our spirit by thanking the Lord. We can thank Him for saving us, living in us, taking care of us, growing in us, and for everything that happens in our lives. Thanking the Lord, even for small things, makes a big difference in our life. The more we practice thanking Him, the more uplifted and supplied we are.
Notice how these ways involve opening our mouth. Instead of staying silent and locked up in our thoughts and feelings, opening our mouth really helps us to exercise our spirit. As we pray, call, sing, pray-read, and thank the Lord aloud, we contact, receive, and enjoy the Lord.
Let’s all build up a daily habit of exercising our spirit so we can be healthy in our spiritual life and grow in Christ.
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