I’m not a runner. I loathed physical fitness tests in middle school and high school, strictly because of the running elements. The stretching, sit-ups, and pull-ups were fine, but the running part was terrible. It’s not because I was a bad runner. I clocked a 5:21 mile in high school. I simply didn’t enjoy running. Since high school, I’ve had five knee surgeries. Needless to say, running isn’t my friend. I know people who run for fun. For fun! They wake up early every morning to beat the heat and run for five miles, sometimes more. Good for them. But that’s for the birds, and I’m not a bird. Put me in a pool and tell me to swim 20 laps and I’m at home, but not on pavement.
Regardless of the sport, professional athletes train for hours on end. Marathon runners run miles and miles each day. Weightlifters are in the gym for several hours each day. Basketball players are on the court practicing their free throws for hours on end. Baseball players are on the diamond and in the cages for several hours every day. After all, it’s their job. They’re supposed to practice. They’re supposed to get better. Progress is supposed to be made. When progress fails to happen, they regress; when they regress, they probably end up retiring.
Spiritual fitness is no different. As believers, we are disciples. We are “little Christ’s.” But our work isn’t complete when we come to know Christ. It’s only the beginning. Jesus didn’t call us to be converts. He doesn’t want us to come to know Him and coast the rest of the way. Christ calls us to be a disciple maker. But in order for us to be disciple makers, we must train to mature as disciples and, ultimately, replicate our faith in others.
The Bible gives us a great training manual when it comes to spiritual fitness. We see this topic in several passages of Scripture, but one of my favorites is in 1 Timothy 4: 7-8. Paul said, “But have nothing to do with pointless and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness. For the training of the body has limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (CSB). So Paul tells us to train ourselves in godliness. As disciples, we know we are to spend time in the Word, memorize Scripture, share the gospel, pray, and fast. But how often do we really “train” ourselves in godliness, as Paul encouraged us to? If we keep reading 1 Timothy 4, in verse 10 we see that Paul said to “strive” for it. Christ is in the process of transforming us—we are being sanctified continually and being made holy constantly. But we must discipline ourselves to the training of the body to become more Christlike.
I like to use the boating world to describe what discipline in Christ looks like. Many people like to think of maturating in discipleship like a canoe or a kayak, where we pull ourselves through the water or paddle for progress. And then on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, people think of their walk with Christ like a cruise ship, where they just get on and enjoy the all-you-can-eat buffet and the endless entertainment. But in reality, our disciplined walk with Christ should look more like a sailboat, where we have sails to raise, knots to tie, decks to clean, and many other responsibilities. Yet on a sailboat, all of our work doesn’t actually move us. It simply puts us in a position to be caught up in the wind. It’s God that moves us. The path of spiritual maturation is one marked by Spirit-fueled discipline.
Just like running, training ourselves in godliness can be tough, especially during the summer. There are many distractions—vacation, heat, children, yardwork—the list goes on and on. But Paul says to train ourselves in godliness because it is beneficial in every way. So don’t lose sight of the goal. Continue to strive for Christlikeness, even through the summer. Become a more mature disciple so that, ultimately, you will replicate your faith in others.
Matt Morris is a Brand Manager at Lifeway Christian Resources in Nashville, Tennessee. He has served in ministry for over 11 years. Matt is married to Carmen and they have twins, Hudson and Harper. Matt and his family are members of First Baptist Church Mount Juliet, where he serves as a deacon.