“Staying in Shape”
Hello and welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. I don't know who first said the words “No Pain - No Gain”, but I guess it's true. Oh, I sure don't like the pain that comes with getting, and staying, in shape. And yet, most of us know the value of taking care of our bodies, and we try to do that. However, do we spend that same amount of time taking care of our spiritual lives? Yes that's important too, but it is something we often times overlook. In our lesson today on “Key to the Kingdom,” our study takes us through some very basic disciplines we can put into practice, that will strengthen us spiritually. There are many disciplines that can help us in our walk with the Lord. I want to focus on just 5; and yet these 5 can and will empower us to go deeper in our relationship with Him. If you are looking for something that will get you in shape spiritually perhaps this is a good place to start. Oh, just as physical exercise is good, and in many cases prolongs our life, so too is a regular spiritual work out. I hope you will stay tuned to this channel for the next few minutes. I believe the following message from God's Word will help you stay in good spiritual shape. Open your heart and your Bible now as we study together.
Like many people, I try to get some exercise. Now as you can tell, I probably do not get enough, or like I should, and perhaps you feel the same way. Sometimes I am just a little bit lazy and I don't want to go to the gym and work out. I'm to lazy to get out of my chair and do anything that will strengthen and bless me in a physical way. Maybe you can relate to that on some occasions, as well. We face that very same challenge spiritually at times, don't we? Oh, it is sometimes difficult to do those things that will bless us in a spiritual way and help us to grow and mature as a disciple of Jesus Christ. And yet sometimes were just a little bit lazy and we don't want to put forth the effort, or to put forth the discipline, in order to do that. And we don't practice what the apostle Paul wrote so long ago, in 1 Timothy 4:7, when he wrote, train yourself to be godly. Watch this short video clip about staying in good spiritual shape.
When I was growing up I enjoyed playing all kinds of sports. I played basketball, and football, and tennis, and a host of other athletic sports. And there's several things that I enjoyed about that activity. I enjoyed meeting people, and making friends, and learning something about teamwork, and also the athletic competition that our teams had against others. But perhaps one of the best things about being involved in sports and athletics was the opportunity to stay in shape. Oh, I worked hard, and for those of you who have done something like that you know the exercise that you get when you play team athletics and sports. Even now as I'm older, I try to find time on a regular basis to work out, to stay in shape, to keep my body fit and trim; and sometimes I don't do a very good job of that. But we all know the importance of doing such a thing, don't we? The apostle Paul even wrote, in 1 Timothy 4:8, bodily training is of some value. Yes, it is important for us to take care of the body that God has given and entrusted to us. Then Paul goes on to say, in the very next phrase, godliness is of value in every way. Yes, for us to live godly lives is more important than anything else. To follow the example of Jesus Christ, to live as a disciple of the One who came from God, is of greater value. But what can we do to do that? Well, it's important to practice some spiritual disciplines, just like we practice out there on the basketball court. We practice such things as prayer with God, and spending time in His Word every day; and other spiritual disciplines that mold us and shape us into the image of Jesus Christ. Oh, let us never forget the value of bodily training and keeping in shape, but let us spend more time and attention on training our hearts, and our minds, and our lives to live in a godly way; representing Jesus Christ, the One who is our Lord and Master. And know that there is great value in such discipline and training.
Do you ever find yourself slipping back into some old habits you wish would simply go away? Oh, I know I do. I don't sometimes stay focused on the importance of growing and maturing as a disciple of Jesus Christ. And when I find myself slipping back just a little bit I ask myself questions; like, what can I do to grow, how can I strengthen my walk with the Lord, and how do I stay spiritually fit? Well, we probably know the importance, the benefits, of doing certain things on a regular basis. And perhaps the 1st one, on the top of our list, is spending time in the Word of God, taking time to not only read the Bible but to study it and to meditate upon it, and then to put it into practice in our daily lives. Certainly that is perhaps the very most important thing we could do. But then there are other things we can do in order to stay spiritually fit, as we long to walk with the Lord. For the next few minutes I want us to think about 5 disciplines, 5 things we can do on a regular basis that help us in our spiritual walk. The 1st one is humility. Jesus provides the greatest example of humility, and it goes all the way back to when He humbly left His home in heaven and came to this Earth to live and to serve among people. Think about that for a moment. He gave up reining and ruling over all of His creation, with His Father, and He came to live among people. And then, Jesus also humbly went to the cross and He died on your behalf, and on mine. Now in-between those 2 events, between Him leaving heaven and humbly dying upon the cross, Jesus taught, by word and by example, many other things that we are to do in order to live a humble life. I think about what happened here in Mark chapter 9, for example. Beginning with verse 33 we read – When He was in the house He asked His disciples, “What were you talking about on the way.” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” – Several times in the Bible we find the phrase, the first will be last and the last will be first. That idea is contrary to the belief of many people. Many believe if they want to be first in this life then they have to exalt themselves. If they are going to be recognized then they have to do the recognizing themselves, and so they lift themselves above everyone else around them. And yet, that is teaching that is contrary to what Jesus has just shared with us. And then, I think about the words of the apostle Peter, when he wrote in 1 Peter 5:5-6 – Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. – When I read that passage of Scripture I realize that God does not want His followers to exalt themselves for a reason, and that is because at just the right time God Himself will do that. God Himself will exalt those who follow Him and He will always do a better job of it than we could ever do ourselves. Someone once said, genuinely humble people, who have a desire to seek the well-being of others, are genuinely very secure people; and that's true. If we are secure in our relationship with the Lord then we will not think twice about living with humility. We won’t think twice about putting into practice what Jesus said; the first will be last and the last will be first. Humility will characterize those who want to grow spiritually. Here is a 2nd discipline I would encourage us to consider, and that is solitude. Jesus made it His practice to be alone with His Father in heaven on a regular basis. Jesus was far too busy and His ministry took way too much of His strength for Him to do it by Himself and so He had to spent time talking with God. He had to spend time renewing His strength and receiving that power so He could go out and be a blessing to other people. Several times in the Gospels we read about Jesus being by Himself and alone with God. Several of them are recorded in the Gospel of Mark. For example, we read this, in chapter 1 beginning with verse 36. – Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for Him, and when they found Him they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” Jesus knew that. Jesus knew everybody would be looking for Him. He was in high demand, and there were people to feed, and people to heal, and people to bless. But before He started doing any of that, He had to receive that strength from God; very early in the morning, by Himself, in that solitary place. Well, it doesn't stop with Jesus, it's with His disciples also. Listen to these words in chapter 6 of Mark, beginning with verse 30. – The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going, that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. – Yes Jesus taught the disciples, you too need to go away by yourself to be strengthened by God, to rest and to commune with Him, and to let Him empower you to do even more good work. Oh, if Jesus and His disciples needed time alone with God then obviously we do to. We need to set aside certain amounts of time to be alone with the Lord, and in His presence, and away from all the distraction of this world, so that we can be strengthened and encouraged to walk closer to Him. I would encourage you today, if you don't already have a solitary place where you can be alone with God on a regular basis, and draw strength from Him, I would encourage you to find that place, and spend time with the Lord. That leads us to the 3rd spiritual discipline which I believe is very important, and that is prayer. We can learn so many things from the early Christians we read about in the book of Acts, chapter 2. You might remember on that occasion, in the city of Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, thousands of people heard the Good News message proclaimed by the apostles of Jesus Christ, and over 3000 of them put their faith in Jesus, and repented of their sin and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. That was a wonderful, very special event. But then they began to practice some things that disciplined their lives and that strengthened them in their walk with the Lord. In Acts 2:42 we read this about these very disciples – They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. – 4 things are mentioned here that these disciples did on a regular basis and one of them was that they devoted themselves to prayer. Prayer was an absolute necessity in their life. For this reason if nothing else, now they were giving their allegiance to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, instead of all of the governing authorities in the land. Jesus was their Lord and Master and they knew that if they were going to succeed in doing that they had to spend lots of time praying about it. They were going to face opposition, and trouble, and problems, but by prayer they could be strengthened knowing that God would supply them with what they needed. Oh, I wish we understood better, and I wish we practiced more, the words of Paul, from Philippians 4:6 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – That’s a powerful Scripture verse, isn't it? And what does Paul tell us there? Instead of living with anxiety and worry, pray. Instead of trying to always figure out all of the answers to life's problems, pray. Instead of spending time worrying about those things or those people we cannot control, pray. Prayer is a powerful tool as we communicate with God. Paul also wrote this, in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. – Pray continually. – 2 words, pray continually. Now it's very hard to misinterpret what Paul wrote. It's very difficult to misunderstand the message Paul is trying to get across to us. He wants us to pray all the time. And prayer is a two-way street. Prayer offers us the opportunity to talk with God about the concerns, and the desires, and the problems going on in our life, and yet, it also allows us the opportunity to be still before the Lord and to allow Him to direct and to guide our lives. And that is spiritual discipline number 3. Here is the 4th thing I would encourage us to practice, as we seek to be spiritually in good shape. That is, self-control. Listen to these words of advice, from Proverbs 25:28 – "A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls." – Long ago, ancient cities were built, and a wall and gates were built around that city for protection. But on occasion, those walls were broken down and those gates were destroyed, and it left the city vulnerable to the foreign enemy. And those foreign enemies would come in and they would destroy the city, and they would take the people prisoners, and do whatever they wanted to do. And so, those walls were very important. And the point that is made here, in Proverbs 28, is that when a person does not have self-control in his or her life then we are vulnerable to the evil influences of this world and very quickly we can be swept aside. Yes self-control is a part of the Spirit's work within a follower of Jesus Christ. It is something that becomes very evident when the Holy Spirit lives and works within us. In fact, it is identified as one of the Fruit of the Spirit, in Galatians 5:23. Paul knew what it meant to live with self-control. He wrote this in 1 Corinthians 9 beginning with verse 24. – “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown of laurel that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly. I do not fight like a man shadowboxing. I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” – Paul knew the importance of staying in shape physically, but more importantly staying in shape spiritually, and so he disciplined himself. He did those things that showed his body he was in control, so that he would be a good representative of Jesus Christ to other people. And that is something that we are to do, as well. Like an athlete, Christians show their bodies who is in charge, and we tell our eyes what to see, and our feet where to go, and our hands what to do; understanding that a Christian's body belongs to the Lord, and He does His work in and through us, and we are in submission to His control over us. And when that happens we can begin to practice good self-control, as we discipline ourselves to be good followers of Jesus Christ. Here is a 5th spiritual discipline I would encourage us to practice, and that is, sacrifice. Perhaps you will agree with me when I say, sacrifice is part of life. That's true, isn't it? Sacrifice is a part of life, whether we are talking about raising children, or getting along with our neighbors, or even living as a Christian. Sometimes it's hard to do that. Sometimes it's hard to make those sacrifices or to give unselfishly, and yet as followers of Jesus Christ we will live sacrificial lives because we understand and appreciate the sacrifice Jesus Himself made for each one of us. When I think about living with sacrifice I'm reminded of what Paul wrote in Romans chapter 12 beginning with verse 1 – “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer yourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is; His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” – Paul tells us very plainly in that passage that a Christian's life is a sacrificial life, and Christians are to say no to some of the things of this world. We put up that stop sign, and we don't go there, and we don't do those things. Why? Because we make some sacrifices. Oh, those things might bring some temporary pleasure or satisfaction, but we know that isn't what we need to do as followers of Jesus Christ. And so, we ask questions like; how can I stay in good spiritual shape? What kind of sacrifices do I need to make? We ask what we need to give up or to do without in order to be fully trained in godly living, in order to be holy and pleasing unto God. Oh, one example Jesus gives to us is found in Matthew 6:19, where we are to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven and not treasures here upon this earth. Yes, often times we have many things which we enjoy here in this world, and yet Jesus tells us to not put our faith in them but rather to put our faith in eternal treasures that will never fade away, that will never rust, or be stolen, but something that will last for all eternity. I realize it takes some real sacrifice to live that kind of life and to do those sort of things. It requires one to make some changes in the way they spend their time, or their resources, or their money, or anything else that might take away from making Jesus Christ the first priority in their life. Oh, it is true that to sacrifice is to give up something for the sake of something else that is much better. And Christians know what that something better is, don't we? Yes, the things here upon this earth might bring some satisfaction for a period of time, but to make the sacrifice for something better is what we, as followers of Christ, want to do; so that we can inherit that eternal home. And so, that is the 5th spiritual discipline I would encourage us to practice, as we long to stay in shape spiritually. You know, if I could offer only 5 things that help us to be in good spiritual condition, I believe they would be these: humility, solitude, prayer, self-control, and sacrifice. Oh certainly, as we said a moment ago, reading, and studying, and applying God's Word into our life perhaps is at the very top of the list, and we know the value and the importance of doing that, but these other 5 things will keep us going on a regular basis as we seek to draw close to the Lord. So, let me ask the question. What do those 5 things look like in your life? Are you living a life of humility and allowing God to exalt you? Are you making some sacrifice in your life by practicing some self-control? What about finding some time to be alone with God and to share with Him in the avenue of prayer? All of those things are absolutely important. As the apostle Paul wrote, so long ago, physical training is of some value. It is important to take care of our bodies because Jesus Christ lives within them. The Holy Spirit does His work through our lives. And I hope we do that, but here is the bigger and more challenging question. Do we spend time training ourselves and disciplining ourselves spiritually, so that we can walk closer to God? That is my encouragement and my prayer for you today; to think about putting into practice these 5 spiritual disciplines so that you won't grow lazy or drift away from the Lord, but that you will be spiritually fit, that you will be spiritually strengthened and renewed every day, as you seek to walk with God.
Thank you for taking some time to watch this episode of “Key to the Kingdom”. Hopefully it blessed you and gave you some ideas about how to stay in good spiritual shape. This message, along with many others, is available again on the website, keytothekingdom.com. Feel free to download any of those that might be of interest to you. If we can help you in your spiritual life and walk with the Lord, we want to do so. Send an e-mail to me through the website and I will be happy to correspond with you. Or, if you would like to receive a free Bible study, without any commitment, let us know (you can enroll through the website). Other materials are also available on the website, and I hope you will take advantage of them. You can even download, onto any smart phone, the free “Key to the Kingdom” app. It is a great way to gain quick and easy access to our ministry. Once again, thank you for watching today's program and please join us again next time as we study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom”.