Updated: May 25, 2020
By bro Cornelius Lee
As I reach my final year in polytechnic, the inevitable call to National Service looms closer and closer. I was never able to pass the 2.4 km run in secondary school for NAPFA so I have to train hard to be able to pass IPPT to get the 2-month cut of National Service. As I struggle to keep an active and regular exercise schedule, I can't help but to remember something my PE teacher said. He said that there are three types of fitness — physical, mental and spiritual fitness. I believe that when it comes to spiritual fitness, the only "religious teacher" we need is the Bible (2 Tim 3:16-17). Let us look to the scriptures and see what it has to say about being spiritually fit. Fitness is defined to be the quality of being suitable to fulfil a role or task. Human beings are always striving to be fit, whether physically or mentally. To run a marathon physically, there is a need to be fit to be able to complete the race. The writer of Hebrews compares the Christian life to a race, Hebrews 12:1-2 states
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Therefore, to be able to run a spiritual race, we must be spiritually fit. How does one be spiritually fit? In the text above, we can see three aspects to the Christian race — the Past, the Present and the Future.
The Past One way to train to be fit is to look and learn from what others had done and follow them. In Heb 12:1, there is a phrase that stands out, which is “we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses”. We are surrounded by a great "cloud of witnesses" that could help in our race but who are these "cloud of witnesses"? The first word in the verse, "Wherefore", hints that we should look to Hebrews chapter 11. This is the commonly known “Hall of Faith”. We look to success stories of those who have been faithful, in this case, spiritually fit. These people had completed the race so it is beneficial to gain advice and guidance from them. We look to the stories of Noah, Abraham, David and so many more who have completed the race and gained their reward. By reading their stories and following their example, we will be able to be as spiritually fit as them.
The Present To train to be fit, one common advice is to be discipled, put away any distractions and be focused on training to be fit. In Hebrews 12:1,
“let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,”
The Hebrew writer said to put aside things that easily distract us and focus on the goal. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Cor 9:25,
“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.”
For a person who strives to be fit, temperance or self-control is needed. Hence, we must bring our body into subjection to be able to be spiritually fit, to be able to focus on the maintaining of our faith, as seen further down in 1 Cor 9:27.
The Future Finally, when one wants to be fit, there must be a motivation to keep going on. After training and maintaining to be spiritually fit, a reward or a benefit must come after the journey. A good reward will motivate one to look towards the end and continue his training. In Hebrews 12:2, we should look to Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith. He is the basis of our faith and if we strengthen and maintain it, Jesus will give us a reward. As mentioned previously in 1 Cor 9:25, we are obtaining a reward that is incorruptible. Jesus has said in Rev 2:10 to be “faithful unto death” and He will give us a “crown of life”, eternal life that will never end. If we struggle while maintaining our spiritual fitness, we must remember that there is a reward at the end of the race that will give us motivation.
In conclusion, physically, it is good for both the young and old to be fit. Similarly, if you are a young Christian or a long-time Christian, being spiritually fit is important. We can train ourselves by learning form people who have gone before us, putting away distractions to maintain our fitness and finally be motivated by the great reward that is waiting for us at the end of the race.