Recently I’ve been thinking lots about spiritual disciplines, and whether we can compare them at all to physical disciplines. There’s obviously some overlap – there are certain things we have to do regularly to stay alive and physically fit. How much can the analogy help us to maintain our spiritual fitness?
Eating: This is probably the easiest one. The Word of God is often compared to food. We cannot live on bread alone – to nourish our souls we need to regularly feed on the Bible. Do you eat every day from the life giving bread that’s been provided?
Drinking: As the Bible is to food, can we say that worship is to drink? We need the refreshing of the Water of Life, the life-giving water of the Holy Spirit. And is one of the best ways to be refreshed to get our eyes away from ourselves, and lifted in worship to our creator and redeemer? How often do you drink from the water of life through worship?
Breathing: We constantly need to be breathing to remain alive. Should we be constantly praying just as much? And just like we breathe in and then breathe out, prayer should be just as much about listening to God as it is talking to Him. Throughout the day, are we talking with Him just as naturally as we breathe?
Sleeping: Our bodies need to rest for long periods of sleep regularly. Without that they become ill, vulnerable to sickness, and fit for nothing. In the same way we need to take regular periods of Sabbath – one full day off each week, and opportunities for rest and renewal throughout the week.
Feasting: If reading the Word is eating, perhaps prolonged study and meditation on the Word can be described as feasting. It’s not something your body can sustain doing all the time, but it’s great to have times when your soul gets “satisfied as with the richest of foods.” How often do you meditate for a serious feasting on the nature of God?
Passing waste: I hope you don’t think I’m being too vulgar here, but just like the body needs to pass out certain toxins regularly, and becomes sick if it doesn’t, so too we need to regularly be confessing our sins to release them from our souls. How often do you have a time of confession? To God, or even with another Christian? Make a habit of getting that toxic sin out of your soul for a healthy spiritual life.
Are there any other comparisons you make? Is there a physical discipline equivalent for journaling, or a spiritual equivalent for doing physical exercise?
Mark Williamson is a founding director of One Rock International. He’s a lay preacher and leader within the Methodist Church, author of a biography on John Wesley, and is currently researching for a biography on William Wilberforce. He enjoys good films, good food, praying for London, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna.