The second day of a new workout regimen is not quite as exciting as the first day. But it is incredibly important. Day two sets the pace.
Giving God Our Best
Bob picked up his phone on the second ring. He wasn't surprised to hear Sam's question: "What time are you heading to the gym?"
Bob and Sam were both approaching forty. Having seen too many friends go soft around the middle, they determined that was not going to happen to them. Gym workouts were now a regular part of their routine.
You don't need to be a fitness fanatic to understand the relationship between exercise and health. Exercise is necessary to be at our best physically. The same is true in the spiritual realm. It takes spiritual exercise to be spiritually fit. We maintain our spiritual health so we can honor God in all we do (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17)
Spiritual Training Is Essential
When Paul urged his young friend Timothy with the words, "Train yourself to be godly" they both understood the implications. "Train" comes from the Greek word, gymnázō. You don't have to be a scholar to see the word "gym" embedded there. Gymnázō meant "to train with one's full effort," like an intense, sweat-soaked workout at the gym. Paul had that kind of intensity in mind when it came to knowing God and serving him better.
In high school, future NBA legend Larry Bird shot 500 free throws every morning at 6 a.m. That is why he stood unnerved at the foul line with the game in the balance. He was ready. Whether it is Bird, Jordan, or LeBron, Olympic figure skating champion Shizuka Arakawa, or Jamaican speedster Usain Bolt, they all know the importance of disciplined practice. We do too.
Most of us start the Christian life with a strong desire to spend time in God's word, but then life gets busy. Our passion fizzles and we lose steam. I think of the words of the journalist G.K. Chesterton:
Why do we stop our spiritual workouts?
Physical workouts are important. Nobody argues that point. It is just that God says spiritual workouts are more important (1 Timothy 4:8). If spiritual training is vital to spiritual health why do so many skip the workout or quit once they start? One big reason is distractions. Richard Foster captures the essence of this battle when he writes:
My men's group was supposed to meet today. Unfortunately, two of us had conflicts in our schedules. We're all busy guys. It would have been easy to blow off the meeting, but recognizing the danger of "muchness" and "manyness" we pulled out our calendars and rescheduled. Take a look at your life. Is it noise, hurry, or crowds that is most likely to pull you away from your spiritual workout? What will you do about it?
Three essentials to effective workouts:
When I observe people who have a long pattern of staying spiritually fit, they share three things in common:
- They work from a plan.
People who are spiritually fit find a Bible reading plan and stick with it. They are not slaves to it, but they recognize how it helps them. Click here for a reading plan.
- They employ the buddy system.
God's says, "two are better than one" (Ecclesiastes 4:9). Whether it is a Yada Group at Spanish River or a Life Group of men or women, working with someone helps.
- They make themselves accountable.
I have a prayer partner who helps me consistently pray, a reading partner who helps me reach my reading goals, and a small group of guys who help keep me honest about my walk with God. My life is better because of these accountable relationships.
Which of these three essentials can best help you stay spiritually fit? Check out the links above or click here so we can provide some assistance.
The S.O.A.P. Bible-reading plan
Now that we have highlighted the importance of your spiritual workout, let's get to it. The heart of our 5-day journey is learning to use the SOAP method for reading our bibles. SOAP is an acronym that stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer.
S is for Scripture
Open your Bible to your daily reading plan (more on that Thursday). Take the time to read the passage and let God speak to you. When you are done, look for one verse that particularly spoke to you. Write it down.
O is for Observation
Observation is looking closely to discover things you did not previously see. What is God showing you in this scripture? Ask the Holy Spirit to "open your eyes," to teach you and reveal Jesus to you. Paraphrase the verse. Write it down in your own words.
A is for Application
Personalize what you have read, by asking yourself how it applies to your life right now. Perhaps it is instruction, encouragement, revelation of a new promise, or corrections for a particular area of your life. Write how this Scripture can apply to you today.
P is for Prayer
This can be as simple as asking God to help you use this Scripture, or it may be asking God for greater insight on what He is revealing to you. Write out your prayer. Remember, prayer is a two-way conversation. Take time to listen to what God has to say!
Your SOAP for today:
Read the passage below. It is about your spiritual workout! Once you read the passage, follow the SOAP plan. This is important! God is adding spiritual muscle to your life. I'm praying for you and so are the leaders of our church. We're in this together.
6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
11 Command and teach these things. 12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:6-16 ESV
Scripture: What is the one verse that God used to speak to you?
Observation: What did you discover in this verse? What is God saying to you? Try writing out the verse in your own words (paraphrase it).
Application: How does this apply to your life right now?
Prayer: Take time to ask the Lord to help you do what he revealed to you.
A closing thought
Way to go. We're two days into our five-day journey. God is going to reward this time of reading and applying his word. It is his promise (Joshua 1:8). Remember, we're teaching you to fish:
Tomorrow I will share one of my favorite stories. It's about the power of observation, which is such an essential part of the SOAP plan.‘‘ Until then, stay on the journey.
- Gymnázō meant "to train with one's full effort" from HELPS word studies, helpsbible.com in http://biblehub.com/greek/1128.htm
- Larry Bird from Drive: The Story of My Life, page 5.
- "The Christian ideal . . ." from G.K. Chesterton, What's Wrong With The World, page 19.