My mentor, Jesus, taught me that I must exercise in the spiritual gymnasium. The game-changer for me was when I read Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline. That was in 1982. Few books have caused me to do something in response to what I read. Foster's was one of them.
I already knew that I must, as a disciple, be disciplined. I must discipline myself to dwell in the Lord's house, seeking his presence. I must abide in Jesus, like a branch, connected to the vine. What Foster gave me was that disciples of Christ must exercise spiritually, and that spiritual exercising was the way I abide in him. For example, praying connects me with Jesus. He gives himself to me, as I pray.
I am not doing spiritual exercises to earn God's love. But, because I love Him, and he has loved me, I desire to grow in him. More accurately, I long to have Christ formed, in me. (Galatians 4:19)
I understand this to be the apostle Paul's idea when he writes, Train yourself to be godly (1 Timothy 4:7). What struck me about this verse was that the Greek word for "train" is gumnaze. Gymnasium!
1 Corinthians 9:25 reads, Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. The Greek word for "compete" is agonizomenos. Agonize! Which means, to compete in the gymnastic games. Again, I am not competing for God's love. He loves me. I compete to be empowered, led, relevant, and anointed.
After reading Foster I began to up my level of competing. I do worship reps in God's gymnasium. I do prayer reps, Bible reps, serving reps, solitude reps, listening reps, giving reps, thanksgiving reps, to grow stronger and be competitive in life.
As Jesus' disciple, I long to be fit for his service.
I want this for you, too.
I am a spiritual athlete!
I train, every day, in God's Gym.
I am growing in spiritual fitness.
I am a competitor for the souls of women and men.
I can feel my spirit getting stronger and stronger.
I live and love the connected-to-Jesus life!
(From my book 31 Letters to the Church on Discipleship.)