Faith is a tremendous gift from God. But in the midst of our busy lives it takes some extra effort to stay spiritually healthy. A lot of things compete for our attention. We yearn to know God more deeply, but our lifestyle choices often make it next to impossible. Then we wonder why we feel spiritually empty, dried up, even sick.
We are not called to be theoretical Christians but people who embrace grace and practice what they believe. Spiritual health means that we are alive and vibrant in Christ. For that, we need some disciplines to help us stay on the right track, focused on God and not on our own problems or distractions.
You’ve been raised on the Message of the faith and have followed sound teaching. Now pass on this counsel to the followers of Jesus there, and you’ll be a good servant of Jesus. Stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion. Exercise daily in God-no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever.
You can count on this. Take it to heart. This is why we’ve thrown ourselves into this venture so totally. We’re banking on the living God, Savior of all men and women, especially believers (1 Tim. 4: 6-10, MSG, emphasis mine).
Jesus sets an example for us of how to boost our spiritual health. He engaged in spiritual disciplines such as solitude, silence, simplicity, service, study, prayer, worship and fasting.
There is no standardized list of prescribed spiritual practices, but here are ten disciplines, or habits, (not in any particular order) that many Christians throughout the centuries have found helpful in boosting their spiritual health:
1) Prayer; silence and solitude: Spending time in God’s presence, with or without words, empowers us. It is a privilege and a gift to be able to commune with God through prayer.
2) Listening to God; spiritual journaling: Listening-paying attention-to God’s whispers in our hearts reminds us that God is active in our lives. Writing down prayers, thoughts, questions, longings and hopes proves meaningful to many people of faith.
3) Private and corporate worship: Praising God opens us to the Holy Spirit, reorders our priorities and redirects our paths. Worship connects us to God on a wholistic level.
4) Bible-reading and study: Meditating on God’s Word keeps us focused on God, rather than on our problems and wants. Through the Bible God speaks to us and guides us personally.
5) Obeying God’s commands: Putting our faith into practice increases our joy. This is one of the paradoxes of faith: when we submit ourselves to God, we find ourselves-and in an odd way, we are freed.
6) Loving God and our neighbors: Surrendering to God leads us to a life of love. God is love, and when we live and serve in Christ, we experience love ourselves.
7) Stepping out in faith when urged to do something:
Trusting in God’s guidance strengthens our faith. When we dare to step out in faith, we learn that God is with us wherever we go and that God is more powerful than our fear.
8) Fasting, not necessarily from food-perhaps from TV or something else: Finding time or space to pay attention to God by giving up something else blesses us beyond measure. We need to guard our hearts as well as our time from distractions.
9) Serving others: Reorienting our attitude away from self keeps us on the right track. Following Jesus in serving others heightens our own experience of grace.
10) Fellowship with other believers:
Building and being part of a Christian community equips us for sharing and caring, within and beyond that community. The values of God’s kingdom are different than those of the world, so we need the support and encouragement of other believers in order to truly live as Christians in our daily lives.
It’s important to remember that disciplines are not ends in themselves but means to the end of knowing God more deeply. If we seek God, we will find him because he wants to be found.
We can’t earn salvation –we are saved through faith by grace (Rom. 3:24-25) – but we can make the effort to stay spiritually healthy. When we are fully alive in Christ, we are also robust in spiritual health.