I am preparing a message this week based on 1 Timothy chapter 4 because our youth group is going to be presenting a slideshow and discussion about their experience at the HistoryMaker conference we attended a few weeks ago. One of the main biblical passages for the weekend was verse 12 “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young,” and that will be at the center of our worship this week.
I’m not going to preach on them (at least no this Sunday), but a couple other verses have caught my attention. Verses 8-9 say “Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in this life and the next. This is true, and everyone should accept it.”
If you know me then you know that I have lead a mostly active life and I strive to remain fit today through running, biking, swimming, and playing countless run around games with my two sons. I am very interested in fitness, though not as fit as I would like to be, and one of the ways I stay motivated is to read books and magazines about running and cycling, and using a GPS watch that tracks my runs and total distances over weeks and months.
Today fitness apparel is getting evermore popular and especially wearable technologies that tabulate things for us. We can count our steps, our sleep, our calories, all from our wrists. One of my brothers and I bought such a device for my dad who was skeptical, but loved it, and when he lost it, actually went out and replaced it. Such devices really are good compasses and they are motivating, helping a person improve their lifestyle choices. This is partly because numbers can embarrass, too many calories in and too few steps taken and one feels rather sheepish, even if no one else is going to see the stats.
Maybe we need such a device for the spiritual life, one that tabulates how often we check Facebook and how often we actually call a friend, how often we post a photo online of food and how often we share meals with others, how much time we spend reading scripture and how much time we spend reading other things, how much time we spend in prayer, and how much time we spend pining for someone or something.
Imagine what it would be like to be motivated to spend time with Daniel or Solomon rather than Bob-the-guy-you-met-that-one-time-at-that-event-that-time! Well there are at least two motivators available to all of us, for free.
First, God knows your stats even if you don’t. Just because we may be unintentional about how we spend our time, what we work towards, what we apply ourselves to, doesn’t mean that God isn’t aware of these things. In fact, he knows our hearts and our ways and while he is a forgiving and loving God, that doesn’t mean he lacks the stats about how we have spent our precious time here.
Second, odds are you already have an accountability partner, whether you know it or not. Some people have these very intentionally; people they have authorized to watch them carefully regarding certain habits or tendencies, people they have asked to call them to the mat when they are going astray. For many people this is done organically, someone who calls “just to check in” or shows up to “drop something off” (but are empty handed). They are people invested in us and they are watching. If we have kids then they are watching us, if we have grandkids, or people around us do, they are watching us. Sometimes people get angry that a community watches itself, they find it hard on their privacy and whatnot. The reality is that often this leads to bringing out the best in us.
If you don’t have a partner yet, think about the people you know and think about who you might talk to openly about some of the biggest challenges you face, someone who is willing to ask you about your prayer life, your scripture reading, your hospitality. It just might be that your spiritual exercise depends on it.