Welcome to Spiritually Strong (Week 1)
Welcome to the first week of our quarterly book study! We will be reading Spiritually Strong by Kristen Feola. This book aligns with this quarter's theme of spiritually deeper.
Reading through the first chapter of Kristen Feola’s Spiritually Strong book was a swift reminder that I have not had an exercise regimen in years. This book about spiritual strength goes through great lengths to educate readers about the importance of physical health and strength. The first chapter focused on the importance of the core, both for spiritual and physical health. Much like the core of the human body – the group of muscles in the center of the body that works jointly to produce movement – our spiritual core must also work together to keep us moving. Our spiritual core consists of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30) and these “muscles’ work jointly to keep us healthy and allow us to move as God leads.
As the author described the benefits of physical exercise and working one’s “core,” I pondered more about the correlation between lack of physical exercise and instances of spiritual atrophy. Hallmarks of a life of spiritual health include the ability to study and understand the bible as God speaks through his word, and to pray with power. Could it be that some of the deep things of God that seemed beyond my understanding were related to my unwillingness to discipline my physical body? It is much harder to wake up early to start the day in prayer or bible study when my body is badly fueled and poorly rested.
The exercises to strengthen our spiritual core read at first like the ABCs for any believer who desires to mature in Christ – bible study, prayer, fasting. We all know these basics. But the author goes further – healthy living, financial stewardship and serving others. These six practices will do much to strengthen not only our spiritual core but our own sense of self-discipline and sacrifice. And as the author puts it, a life of discipline is the hallmark of any true disciple.
In chapter three, we learn that discipline is the mental toughness to do what we should, rather than what we feel like doing (like waking up at 5 am to spend time with our heavenly father). Much like anything else in life, we develop more discipline by practicing it in big and little ways. Discipline requires us to leave our comfort zone and challenge ourselves. There are three action steps identified for training in discipline: 1) Identify your goals. 2) Define your boundaries. 3) Recognize rewards.
One of the benefits of self-discipline is that boundaries established through discipline keep us safe. We are less likely to wander into enemy territory when we live a disciplined life. I immediately thought about the intentionality it has taken over the years to safeguard my heart from lustful influences. The Holy Spirit does not allow me to watch, read, or be entertained by anything and everything my flesh may crave. Within the God-drawn boundaries of purity and sanctification, I have found true freedom. Being disciplined (and diligent) concerning my entertainment choices as a believer has yielded the reward of an uncluttered mind and a soul that finds its delight in the things of God rather than in carnal pursuits. Discipline is not bondage - sin is. Discipline is the freedom to do what God has called us to do
But if we truly desire greater discipline, and we follow through to do the work to become spiritually strong, the end goal is delight (greater joy in the Lord). With that said, we have some homework.
Here is your challenge for the week:
Take this week to prepare for the next three weeks where you will go more in-depth with two of these disciplines per week. This will challenge you and stretch you, you may even get uncomfortable. That is good.
Discussion: What part of spiritual discipline do you feel you lack most? And where do you feel you are strong?
Lastly, how can we pray for you and with you?
Be sure to come back next week as we discuss chapters 4 & 5