Let any man turn to God in earnest, let him begin to exercise himself unto godliness…and the results will exceed anything he may have hoped in his leaner and weaker days.
A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
I don't know about you, but I'm really bad about making things harder than they need to be, and my spiritual life is no exception. The older I get, however, the more I realize that steady baby steps towards God are every bit as important as those rare dramatic epiphanies. Those “mountain top experiences” were never intended by God to be the norm, so why do we insist on seeking them above all else…or thinking that we're doing something wrong if we don't experience them?
I make myself exercise regularly. I know it's good for me, and I know that I feel better and have more energy and sense of well-being when I'm faithful to this discipline, even though a single exercise session doesn't make any noticeable difference. So when A.W. Tozer, in his book The Pursuit of God, encouraged his readers to “exercise unto godliness,” it really resonated with me.
We exercise our muscles for physical fitness.
We exercise our brains for mental sharpness and intellectual vigor.
We practice (e.g., a language, a musical instrument, a speech) to achieve mastery.
Why should it be any difference in the way we develop our spiritual strength? We must be persistent and faithful to the effort if we expect to see results.
And what happens when we try to exercise by lifting too heavy a weight or over-exerting? We can pull a muscle, damage a joint or exhaust ourselves to the point of injury. What about trying to learn from a graduate level physics book when we've never taken high school physics? We get confused and discouraged.
- Start now…from wherever you are…and ask God (by whatever name your higher power is called) to guide you in small, steady steps towards Him and towards spiritual maturity.
- Instead of making a promise to read an hour a day in the Bible or the scripture of your faith, and then falling by the wayside within a week, try starting with five minutes a day.
- Instead of chastising yourself when your mind flies off in a million directions instead of concentrating on the prayers you wanted to pray, just smile and invite God to be with you while you give your errant thoughts over to Him too.
- Remember the many biblical references to being childlike with God…don't try to make it complicated!
- Keep turning yourself towards God…over and over, day by day…and you will be exercising those spiritual muscles, increasing your spiritual fitness, and strengthening your relationship with God.
- Start now…you can do it…just one small baby step, then the next. It's a journey you don't want to miss!