Right now there is such a focus on physical workouts! “I’m going to the gym” has become a mantra in society! But what about working out our spirit? Do you work out your faith and exercise your senses for spiritual maturity as well as your body for physical strength?
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My Self Defense Training
You might be surprised to learn I was a professional martial artist! I used to co-own a martial arts facility where I trained in Tae Kwon Do, Jeet Kune Do and Israeli hand to hand combat. In fact, I not only trained in the Israeli martial arts, but I also taught it.
Here I was training these big guys, including some high-ranking officers (one went on to be an Admiral), from the Naval Submarine Base down the road! But I also taught women’s self-defense classes and worked with women who had suffered physical abuse. It was really very rewarding!
I loved Israeli martial arts! But it has been a long time. It’s been a VERY long time…about 14 years now.
So recently I was talking to my husband about it and decided to see how much I could quickly recall if I was threatened. I had him come at me and, sure enough, my training kicked in and I was able to easily recall the techniques. My mind may not have been able to recall what each step was when I sat and thought about it, but my body remembered.
Muscle Memory Training
My body was able to react that way, in part, due to procedural memory, often associated with muscle memory. Even though it has been a long time, my muscles knew what to do with my body as the “attacker” came at me. I didn’t even have to think about what to do. There was no pause in my actions. My body took over and did what it needed to do.
Hebrews 5:14 says:
“But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” NKJV
Exercising your senses “by reason of use” is similar to an athlete’s muscles developing memory.
When you work the same muscle over and over again the muscle gains memory and adjusts to the task needed of it. As you train, your body develops procedural memory and recalls steps in the process.
You can train your spirit as well as your body!
Work Out Your Faith – Exercise Your Spiritual Senses
We can recall verses about that very thing we are struggling with. We can recall a teaching about that topic. And we can recall what God says to us about it. This all leads us to greater spiritual maturity and a deeper walk with the Lord.
When the enemy attacks us, much like a physical attacker for someone trained in martial arts, we can immediately counter the attack and send him running! Work out your faith so you can…
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 ESV
The Greek word for ‘resist’ is “anthistēmi”, which means to stand against, oppose, to set oneself against, much the same as someone would stand against a physical attack.
Work Out Your Faith – Grow in Spiritual Maturity
I quoted Hebrews 5:14 previously, but let’s look at it again along with the preceding verse.
“Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
Spiritual immaturity is the result of not being acquainted with the teachings about righteousness. It is a lack of training per se.
It says “by constant use”!
When a student starts off in martial arts, they start as a white belt. White represents purity and innocence. In other words, the student is a blank canvas.
Spiritual immaturity is the result of not being acquainted with the teachings about righteousness.
New believers are the same! They are starting off their walk with God as a blank canvas, ready to learn the ways of the Kingdom of God.
But if a martial arts student doesn’t come to class, if a student doesn’t practice their forms continuously, they will remain a white belt.
Work Out Your Faith – Get in the Word
When a believer doesn’t get in the Word and study it, if they don’t attend church to receive fellowship and instruction, if they don’t pray, they will remain a babe on milk, a white belt. If you don’t continue to work out your faith, you have cannot progress to that solid food, that spiritual maturity the Word speaks of.
If a believer is attacked and has not developed that maturity, they don’t have the “training” to call on to defeat their enemy.
When they go through struggles, they don’t have the “training” to know how to lean on God and trust Him during those times, to recall what His Word says about the situation. They may not know how to pray for His help and His guidance. They may not even know that they can!
Work Out Your Faith – The Training Ground of the Bible
The Bible is your training ground! It is your teacher! It is your help in times of trouble! God speaks to you through those pages and gives you help in times of need! You work out your faith in the Word!
It is your instruction manual!
When I was training in martial arts, I had to practice and practice and practice. And when I was done practicing, I had to practice some more! I had to keep doing this until my body knew what to do without me even thinking about it.
The Bible is your training ground! It is your teacher! It is your help in times of trouble! God speaks to you through those pages and gives you help in times of need!
We need to get in the Word and stay in the Word until we know how to live our lives for Him and how to respond to situations in life! We need to memorize verses the same way I had to memorize techniques so that you can recall them at any moment when needed. Spiritual maturity is learning to walk in obedience to God, but if we don’t know His Word, if we have not hidden it in our hearts then how can we do that effectively?
You need to stay in prayer and ask God for help when needed, the same way I had to have an instructor physically show me how to position myself and do the required steps to defeat my “enemy”.
God can “position” you through prayer and His Word! When you turn things over to Him, He will place you right where He wants you to be for that time, that situation, that temptation, that season, when we cast our cares on Him!
Work Out Your Faith and Run Your Race
I know it may seem silly to compare our walk with God to training in martial arts, or any other sport for that matter. But remember, Paul did that as well.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 says:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” NIV
Run in such a way as to receive the crown that lasts forever! But make no mistake, Paul mentions here “strict training” for that crown!
“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
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Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™