One of the privileges of living where we do is that we are very near the beach. I am not a fitness fanatic, but I do believe in keeping a reasonable level of physical fitness, especially as I get older. One of the main planks of my fitness ‘regime’ has for many years has been a fairly ‘stiff’ walk on the beach in the early morning before breakfast. Recently, due to a heavy cold, I had to omit this walk for a short period of time. Unfortunately, this was followed by a period of severe weather which I used as an excuse for delaying my return to my regular morning walks. The truth of the matter is that I had become lazy, and I was just making excuses.
A few days ago, after many battles with myself, I steeled myself and went for my morning walk, thinking that I would be able to take up my walks with just a little bodily discomfort. I was mistaken. As the walk went on. Every step got harder and when I reached my usual turning point, I wondered how I as going to make it back. Pride can be a very powerful thing, and it kept me going non-stop to the end. When I got back to the house, the only thing I could say to my wife was, “I’m wasted!” I was unfit and I did not realise it.
This all set me thinking, Is there such a thing as spiritual ‘fitness’? The answer is undoubtedly, Yes; and it is far more important than physical fitness; but first of all, what can we say about spiritual unfitness. One thing sure: like physical unfitness it happens very slowly; so slowly that we are not aware that it is happening. The soul slowly leaves its resting place. This is why the Psalmist prays, “Return unto thy rest, O my soul” (Psalm 116:7). He had faced up to the fact that his soul was wandering away from God, and he yearned for it to return to its rest in God. That yearning was itself an indication that his soul was on the way back to its rest.
Another symptom is a slide in our desire for Christ. Paul writes, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). Every one who is RightWithGod is risen with Christ, meaning that he or she is born again”, and is trusting in Christ for salvation. When that desire slides, we become preoccupied with the things of this world. When we are made aware of this preoccupation, it is time to call our soul back to its rest in God.
We may, all this time, be following our normal spiritual disciplines: Bible study, prayer and attending the ‘means of grace’ ( Lord’s Day services, prayer meetings, sacraments). But our soul is wandering, and our desire for Christ has been subdued by worldly preoccupations. Like physical unfitness, spiritual unfitness creeps up on us slowly. We do not realise there is anything wrong, until we get some kind of shock, as I got regarding the state of my body, a few days ago.