It has not been a secret that fitness is a hobby of mine. I really enjoy exercise as a way to relieve stress and achieve goals! I see it as a very practical hobby as it does have significant affects on energy and longevity. Spiritually, I see my efforts a part of my own physical stewardship. God gave me this body and I want to do right by it. Just like Jesus in so many parables discussing workers in vineyards. The workers who take good care of the vineyard are rewarded, and the same is true for people who work hard taking care of the body.
In my quest for physical fitness over the years I have learned a few things. The primary one is that just wanting to be healthier does not make it happen automatically. It takes real consistent commitment to change one’s habits to make any lasting changes to one’s health. The small choices of what to eat, when to exercise, and how to exercise matter! The changes you make have to be enjoyable, otherwise you will soon fall back into bad habits.
All of this should sound familiar from your doctor or even light reading on the subject. What may not be as clear is that being fit in the faith works the same way. Yes, the grace of God is a gift, but applying that faith so that it works itself out in healthy faith-forming habits takes tenacity and effort. There are real measurable habits of faith to build up your faith fitness, or said another way, spiritual stability. Children need to put these habits into motion so that they build a resilient faith that lasts a lifetime. These faith fundamentals, which the church historically has called spiritual disciplines, are the basis of confirmation instruction here at St. Paul.
Here are the habits/ spiritual disciples that cultivate resilient faith:
Worship — The Baptized Christian should be in regular worship, which we call the Divine Service. In worship Christians hear the Gospel proclaimed, and receive forgiveness of sins through Absolution and partaking in the Lord’s Supper. Christians are encouraged by the singing and faith of their faith family in the congregation, and encourage others as well by their participation. The habit of worship should be done as much as possible to maintain good faith fitness.
Learning — The Baptized Christian should be engaged in regular corporate study of God’s word. Faith seeks understanding, and studies show that a congregation that has many members in Bible study is a stronger congregation that can better work through conflict and make strategic plans for the future. It is good to push oneself to learn and apply God’s Word throughout one’s life. The instruction does not end at confirmation. In fact, that can be merely the beginning. The habit of learning should be practiced as much as one’s schedule allows. Best practice for most is to be engaged in just one group study at a time during regular seasons of life.
Devotion — The Baptized Christian should spend some time in personal and/or family devotion. This is time for God to feed your spirit in the Word, to explore your spiritual questions in an intimate way, and to have simple regular reminders of who you are in Christ. Many people have daily habits of personal devotion, but that is simply one way to do it. Personal and family devotions are very individual in form and look different from one family to another. Any sort of rhythm that is consistent will build solid faith fitness, whether daily, weekly, etc.
Fellowship — The Baptized Christian should spend time with other Baptized Christians, through conversation and shared meals, through fun activities, and social gatherings. As much as possible the community of faith should strive to have all things in common as they did in the earliest church after the first Pentecost, do life together, and share the blessings God has bestowed with one another. A good place to start developing the habit of fellowship is to simply invite people into your home to share in meals, but certainly it is not limited to that either. Be creative in developing opportunities to spend time with people through visits, trips, going out to dinner with people, etc.
Service — The Baptized Christian should be of service to others. This can look radically different in each Christian’s life. Whether it is simply helping a neighbor, helping out at community, church, or school functions, helping the poor, encouraging and uplifting the young, providing comfort and company to the old, financial investment in ministry and those in need, service is vital. Truthfully, the other spiritual disciplines prepare you for this one, forming you into someone who can more easily set yourself and your self interest aside to serve someone else. However, what makes this a faith-forming habit is that the more you do it, the more confident and resilient you are in this faith that bids you to love your neighbor as yourself.
Now, you may look at the list of habits and think, “wow, that is a lot! I’m good at that one, but not so much at the others!” That is alright! These habits for faith fitness are all good, but certainly not mandatory. Just like in physical fitness, you cannot do everything that could make you more healthy. Long distance runners are not going to be powerlifters or major league baseball players! Also, remember, these things flow from a faith you have been given. Your efforts to become fit in the faith are not driven by your desire to be the best, but from the Holy Spirit who “calls, gather, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.“ (Luther’s Small Catechism, Meaning of the Third Article)
This Fall, as we transition to what the new normal is this school year with Pandemic and everything that goes along with it, consider what habit/ spiritual discipline you may want to work on this year. Maybe it's a real commitment to be regular in worship once we transition back into the sanctuary on October 4th. Perhaps its beginning a new Bible study this fall and joining one of these studies:
Sunday Morning Adult Bible Study, 9:00AM (Live Stream & In Person)
Tuesday Ladies Sip/Study, 7:00PM
(Zoom, Contact Natalie Jording with questions)
Thursday Morning Men’s Bible Study, 6:30AM (In Person Only)
NEW September 9! Wednesday Afternoon Bible Study with Pastor, 1:00PM
(Live Stream & In Person)
Perhaps, it is trying out a new devotional resource, engaging in a new type of service, or reaching out to connect with friends and family for some fellowship! The possibilities are endless!
I’ll keep on lifting weights and putting in the work on the stationary bike this winter because I do not want to fall off the wagon when the weather gets cold, and we as a family have some things to work on with our family faith fitness too!
Faith Fitness Freak,