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  • John Howard

Building Spiritual Muscle

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog entry about priorities. (You can read it here.) In it, I revealed my, perhaps unhealthy, obsession with working out. Recently, my gym reopened and I eagerly returned. I found that after three months of no strength workout, I had lost a lot of muscle and was off my normal weights considerably. For example, I was down 20 pounds on my bench press. I have been back working out for a couple of weeks now and I’m starting to see a little slow progress. But it’s going to be a long road to regain the muscle I’ve lost. I’ll need to follow my own advice that I give to others about strength training, the 3 P's: patience, persistence, and perspiration. Patience because sometimes there are long plateaus where you seem to gain nothing. Persistence because gaining muscle takes years not days or weeks. Perspiration because you don’t make any real progress without effort.

Below is Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson. His main training objective is muscle mass and it shows. But it took years of patience, persistence, and perspiration for him to get where he is. He is now basically in maintenance mode but still works out 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week to keep from losing ground. Discipline is key.


It turns out that gaining spiritual strength and muscle works much the same. Consistent, long term application of spiritual disciple is key to gains there too. For me the big four are daily Bible study, prayer, fellowship, and service. Some would add others such as fasting or meditation. Here's how I see my disciplines growing me spiritually:


I do two forms of Bible study: just reading through the Bible and directed study of passages. The first I do on a routine, daily basis. The second I mainly do in preparing study questions for and leading my home group. Answering study questions or listening to messages that teach scripture can be equally helpful. After years of this, I find that Bible verses come to my mind and help guide my thoughts and actions for any life situation. This is maybe the main means of the Holy Spirit communicating with me. Truly there is no substitute for feeding on God's word until it is deeply ingrained within you.


I pray daily. Mainly intercessory prayer. My sweet wife prays with me at length over our evening meal. I find it forms spiritual bonds of caring. Praying for an enemy is a particularly powerful means of transforming my own heart.


Sunday services are a great time to hang with the saints but small groups are where bonds of brotherhood (and sisterhood) are really nourished. I have three main groups I participate in, each with different reasons for getting together. All of them provide support and encouragement. This is like oxygen for my spiritual life.


Finally, service. I have served in youth ministry for decades. The same for Mexico ministry. Service builds your spiritual strength in a different and powerful way. You go beyond being filled with the Holy Spirit to being a conduit through which the Holy Spirit flows to fill others. God has gifted you for some specific service and you won't be truly fulfilled spiritually until you find it and exercise that gifting.


I pray that you can find a way to apply the three P's in your spiritual life. And grow spiritually in Christ.

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