I’m no authority on the subject of physical exercise but it seems to me that the people who seem to benefit most have an exercise plan. Exercise in the physical or spiritual realm requires intentionality and tends to be more effective when done with another. People who want to develop in the physical realm determine the various options such as weight training, cardio, flexibility, etc. and then seek to create an exercise plan that is right for them. The plan is designed to help you grow from where you are to where you want to be. An exercise partner ideally encourages you and creates accountability in a way that helps you to implement your plan. Creating a culture of intentional growth is great for the individual and the community.
In the spiritual realm we need to be careful to avoid reducing a relationship with Christ to a spiritual workout or creating any impression that doing more spiritual exercise makes you more right with God. If you are in Christ you are right with God because of the work that Jesus did and by receiving that gift from God by faith when you submitted to Christ. Nevertheless, I’ve discovered through the years that a spiritual exercise plan and an accountability partner have helped me to grow in Christ. Similarly, I’ve seen that a spiritual exercise plan has been helpful for new believers, mature believers, and Christian leaders. So how do you create a spiritual exercise plan?
Consider the list below and set personal goals for your spiritual development. Don’t worry about comparing your list with someone else’s plan it is not a competition, but a personal spiritual growth plan.
- Bible reading: for example consider a Bible reading plan to read through the Bible in a year. Perhaps you want to create a plan based on a certain amount of time (e.g. a half hour) for a certain number of days each week, or any plan that works for you.
- Prayer: plan to set aside time to pray alone or with others. Consider a list of prayer requests to help you.
- Reflection: Take time to journal or for some quiet time to reflect about God and your life with Christ.
- Sharing your faith: How often would you like to share your faith with an unbeliever or unchurched person?
- Authentic relationships [community]: What is your plan to be involved in a community group?
- Serving others: How would you like to serve God by serving others in the church in this coming season?
- Generosity: How do you plan to give of your financial resources to advance God’s kingdom through the church in the coming year?
Once you have a plan share it with a friend who will help to encourage you and keep you accountable. I try to meet with my spiritual exercise partner every couple of weeks to talk about life in general, any challenges we are facing and to encourage one another to keep growing in Christ. These times are far more than reviewing a checklist. Sometimes we don’t even talk about our spiritual exercise plans, and these meetings are some of my favorite times of life.
Remember the purpose of a spiritual exercise plan is to help you to grow in your relationship with Christ and others. It is a flexible plan and you can adjust it whenever and however you choose. I suspect that the last thing that Christ desires is you feeling guilty that you are not doing enough. Insteadconsider the plan as a tool to help you be intentional about your growth.
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Bruce Zachary is the founding and lead pastor at Calvary Nexus. He and his wife Karen and their sons Josh and Jonny live in Camarillo. He enjoys teaching the Bible, fountain pens, riding his bike, and good coffee.