Spiritual Growth

* Difficulties an opportunity for spiritual growth 

Just as Abram experienced difficulties, he had an opportunity for spiritual growth.  When famine struck, Abram went to Egypt where there was food.  Why would there be a famine in the land where God had just called Abram?  This was a test of Abram’s faith, and Abram passed.  He didn’t question God’s leading when facing this difficulty.  Many believers find that when they determine to follow God, they immediately encounter great obstacles.  The next time you face such a test, don’t try to second-guess what God is doing.  Use the intelligence God gave you, as Abram did when he temporarily moved to Egypt, and wait for new opportunities. (NLT)

Genesis 12:10 – At that time there was a severe famine in the land, so Abram went down to Egypt to wait it out.

* God tested Abraham, not to trip him and watch him fall, but to deepen his capacity to obey God and thus to develop his character.  Just as fire refines ore to extract precious metals, God refines us through difficult circumstances.  When we are tested, we can complain, or we can try to see how God is stretching us to develop our character. (NLT)

Genesis 22:1 – Later on God tested Abraham’s faith and obedience.  “Abraham!” God called.  “Yes,” he replied.  “Here I am.”

* God reminded Jacob of his new name, Israel, which meant “one who struggles with God.”  Although Jacob’s life was littered with difficulties and trials, his new name was a tribute to his desire to stay close to God despite life’s disappointments.

Many people believe that Christianity should offer a problem-free life.  Consequently, as life gets tough, they draw back disappointed.  Instead, they should determine to prevail with God through life’s storms.  Problems and difficulties are painful but inevitable; you might as well see them as opportunities for growth.  You can’t prevail with God unless you have troubles to prevail over. (NLT)

Genesis 35:10 – and said, “Your name is no longer Jacob; you will now be called Israel.”

* Are you in shape both physically and spiritually?  In our society, much emphasis is placed on physical fitness, but spiritual health is even more important.  Our physical health is susceptible to disease and injury, but faith can sustain us through these tragedies.  To train ourselves to be godly, we must develop our faith by suing our God-given abilities in the service of the church.  Are you developing your spiritual muscles? (NLT)

1 Timothy 4:7-10 – Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales.  Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness.  Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual.  Exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.  This is true, and everyone should accept it.  We work hard and suffer much in order that people will believe the truth, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and particularly of those who believe.

* Mapping your spiritual growth

Moses recorded the Israelites’ journeys as God instructed him, providing a record of their spiritual as well as geographic progress.  Have you made spiritual progress lately?  Recording your thoughts about God and lessons you have learned over a period of time can be a valuable aid to spiritual growth.  A record of your spiritual pilgrimage will let you check up on your progress and avoid repeating past mistakes. (NLT)

Numbers 33:2 – At the Lord’s direction, Moses kept a written record of their progress.  These are the stages of their march, identified by the different places they stopped along the way.

* Hearing, learning, and following spiritual growth 

The people entered into a covenant with God, and Moses commanded them to hear, learn, and follow his regulations.  Christians also have entered into a covenant with God (through Jesus Christ) and should be responsive to what God expects.  Moses’ threefold command to the Israelites is excellent advice for all God’s followers.  Listening is absorbing and accepting information about God.  Learning is understanding is meaning and implications.  Obeying is putting into action all we have learned and understood.  All three parts are essential to a growing relationship with God. (NLT)

Deuteronomy 5:1 – Moses called all the people of Israel together and said, “Listen carefully to al  the laws and regulations I am giving you today.  Learn them and be sure to obey them!

* Spiritual growth is gradual, not instant

The conquest of much of the land of Canaan seems to have happened quickly (we can read about it in one sitting), but it actually took seven years.  We often expect quick changes in our lives and quick victories over sin.  But our journey with God is a lifelong process, and the changes and victories may take time.  It is easy to grow impatient with God and feel like giving up hope because things are moving too slowly.  When we are close to a situation, it is difficult to see progress.  But when we look back, we can see that god never stopped working. (NLT)

Joshua 11:18 – waging war for a long time to accomplish this.

* At times, Jesus limited his public ministry in order to train his disciples in depth.  He knew the importance of equipping them to carry on when he returned to heaven.  It takes time to learn.  Spiritual growth isn’t instant, regardless of the quality of experience or teaching.  If even the disciples needed to lay aside their work periodically in order to learn from the Master, how much more do we need to alternate working and learning. (NLT)

Mark 9:30-31 – Leaving that region, they traveled through Galilee.  Jesus tried to avoid all publicity in order to spend more time with his disciples and teach them.  He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed.  He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.”

* We cannot reach up to God by following rules of self-denial, by observing rituals, or by practicing religion.  Paul isn’t saying all rules are bad.  But keeping laws or rules will not earn salvation.  The Good News is that God reaches down to human beings, and he asks for our response.  Man-made religions focus on human effort; Christianity focuses on Christ’s work.  Believers must put aside sinful desires, but doing so is the by-product of our new life in Christ, not the reason for our new life.  Our salvation does not depend on our own discipline and rule keeping but on the power of Christ’s death and resurrection. (NLT)

Colossians 2:20-23 – You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from evil powers of this world.  So why do you keep on following rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle, don’t eat, don’t touch.”  Such rules are mere human teaching about things that are gone as soon as we use them.  These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, humility, and severe bodily discipline.  But they have no effect when it comes to conquering a person’s evil thoughts and desires.

* Suffering an opportunity for spiritual growth 

Job began to wallow in self-pity.  When we face baffling affliction, our pain lures us toward feeling sorry for ourselves.  At this point we are only one step from self-righteousness, where we keep track of life’s injustices and say, “Look what happened to me; how unfair it is!”  We may feel like blaming God.  Remember that life’s trials, whether allowed by God or sent by God, can be the means of development and refinement.  When facing trials, ask “What can I learn and how can I grow?” rather than “Who did this to me and how can I get out of it?” (NLT)

Job 10:1 – “I am disgusted with my life.  Let me complain freely.  I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.

* Job’s profound speech in this chapter illustrates a great truth: To have a right set of doctrines is not enough.  To know what to believe is not all that is required to please God.  Truth untested by life’s experiences may become static and stagnant.  Suffering can bring a dynamic quality to life.  Just as drought drives the roots of a tree deeper to find water, so suffering can drive us beyond superficial acceptance of truth to dependence on God for hope and life. (NLT)

Job 14:22 – They are absorbed in their own pain and grief.

* Spiritual Growth compared to a tree

Isaiah compares the state of Israel’s spiritual life with dry twigs that are broken off and used to make fires. Trees in Scripture often represent spiritual life. The trunk is the channel of strength from God; the branches are the people who serve him. Tree branches sometimes waver and blow in the wind. Like Israel, they may dry up from internal rottenness and become useless for anything except building a fire. What kind of branch are you? If you are withering spiritually, check to see if you are firmly attached to God. (NLT)

Isaiah 27:11 – The people are like the dead branches of a tree, broken off and used for kindling beneath the cooking pots. Israel is a foolish and stupid nation, for its people have turned away from God. Therefore, the one who made them will show them no pity or mercy.

* Spiritual growth is shown by what we do and don’t do

We cannot be saved without faith in Christ, but our faith lacks sincerity if it doesn’t reach out to others.  Fasting can be beneficial spiritually and physically, but at its best fasting helps only the person doing it.  God says he wants our fasting to go beyond our own personal growth to acts of kindness, charity, justice, and generosity.  This truly is pleasing to God. (NLT)

Isaiah 58:6-12 – “No, the kind of fasting I want calls you to free those who are wrongly imprisoned and to stop oppressing those who work for you.  Treat them fairly and give them what they earn.  I want you to share your food with the hungry and to welcome poor wanderers into your homes.  Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

“If you do these things, your salvation will come like the dawn.  Yes, your healing will come quickly.  Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.  Then when you call, the Lord will answer.  ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.

“Stop oppressing the helpless and stop making false accusations and spreading vicious rumors!  Feed the hungry and help those in trouble.  Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around y9u will be as bright as day.  The Lord will guide you continually, watering your life when you are dry and keeping you healthy, too.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.  Your children will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.  Then you will be known as the people who rebuild their walls and cities.

* Time alone with God important to spiritual growth 

Seeking solitude was an important priority for Jesus.  He made room in his busy schedule to be alone with the Father.  spending time with God in prayer nurtures a vital relationship with him and equips us to meet life’s challenges and struggles.  Develop the discipline of spending time alone with God.  It will help you grow spiritually and become more and more like Christ. (NLT)

Matthew 14:23 – Afterword he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

* Understanding the process of spiritual growth

This parable about the Kingdom of God, recorded only by Mark, reveals that spiritual growth is a continual, gradual process that is finally consummated in a harvest of spiritual maturity.  We can understand the process of spiritual growth by comparing it to the slow but certain growth of a plant. (NLT)

Mark 4:26-29 – Jesus also said, “Here is another illustration of what the Kingdom of God is like: A farmer planted seeds in a field, and then he went on with his other activities.  As the days went by, the seeds sprouted and grew without the farmer’s help.  Because the earth produces crops on its own.  First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens.  And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle.”

* Parallels between physical life & spiritual growth

Many spiritual functions parallel physical functions.  As our bodies hunger and thirst, so do our souls.  But our souls need spiritual food and water.  The woman confused the two kinds of water, perhaps because no one had ever talked with her about her spiritual hunger and thirst before.  We would not think of depriving our bodies of food and water when they hunger or thirst.  why then should we deprive our souls?  The living Word, Jesus Christ, and the written Word, the bible, can satisfy our hungry and thirsty souls. (NLT)

John 4:13-15 – Jesus replied, “People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water.  But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether.  It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me some of that water!  Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to haul water.”

* God’s pruning strengthens us, spiritual growth 

Jesus makes a distinction between two kinds of pruning: (1) cutting off and (2) cutting back branches.  Fruitful branches are cut back to promote growth.  In other words, God must sometimes discipline us to strengthen our character and faith.  But branches that don’t bear fruit are cut off at the trunk not only because they are worthless but also because they often infect the rest of the tree.  People who don’t bear fruit for God or who try to block the efforts of God’s followers will be cut off from his life-giving power. (NLT)

John 15:2-3 – [Jesus said] “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.  You have already been pruned for greater fruitfulness by the message I have given you.”

* How a person becomes pure & holy

A follower of Christ becomes pure and holy through believing and obeying the Word of God.  He or she has already accepted forgiveness through Christ’s sacrificial death.  But daily application of God’s Word has a purifying effect on our minds and hearts.  Scripture points out sin, motivates us to confess, renews our relationship with Christ, and guides us back to the right path. (NLT)

John 17:17 – [Jesus said] “Make them pure and holy by teaching them your words of truth.”

* Do you really want to learn more about Jesus?

Cornelius wanted Peter to stay with him for several days. He was a new believer and realized his need for teaching and fellowship. Are you as eager to learn more about Christ? Recognize your need to be with mature Christians, and strive to learn from them. (NLT)

Acts 10:48 – So he gave orders for them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Afterward Cornelius asked him to stay with them for several days.

* Must follow up with new believers

Barnabas and Saul stayed at Antioch for a full year, teaching the new believers. They could have left for other cities, but they saw the importance of follow-up and training. Have you helped someone believe in God? Spend time teaching and encouraging that person. Are you a new believer? Remember, you are just beginning your Christian life. Your faith needs to grow and mature through consistent Bible study and teaching. (NLT)

Acts 11:26 – When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching great numbers of people. (It was there at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)

* How to strengthen weak faith

What is weak faith?  Paul is speaking about immature faith that has not yet developed the muscle it needs to stand against external pressures.  For example, if a person who once worshiped idols became a Christian, he might understand perfectly well that Christ saved him through faith and that idols have no real power.  Still, because of his past associations, he might be badly shaken if he unknowingly ate meat that had been used in idol worship.  If a person who once worshiped God on the required Jewish holy days became a Christian, he might well know that Christ saved him through faith, not through his keeping of the law.  Still, when the festival days came, he might feel empty and unfaithful if he didn’t dedicate those days to God.

Paul responds to both weak brothers in love.  both are acting according to their consciences, but their honest convictions do not need to be made into rules for the church.  Certainly some issues are central to the faith and worth fighting for, but many are based on individual differences and should not be legislated.  Our principle should be: In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in everything, love. (NLT)

Romans 14:1 – Accept Christians who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.

* What infant Christians are

Paul called the Corinthians infants in the Christian life because they were not yet spiritually healthy and mature.  The proof was that they quarreled like children, allowing divisions to distract them.  Immature Christians are “worldly,” controlled by their own desires; mature believers are in tune with God’s desires.  How much influence do your desires have on your life?  Your goal should be to let God’s desires be yours.  Being controlled by your own desires will stunt your growth. (NLT)

1 Corinthians 3:1-3 – Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to mature Christians.  I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life.  I had to feed you with milk and not with solid food, because you couldn’t handle anything stronger.  And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your own sinful desires.  You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other.  Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your own desires?  You are acting like people who don’t belong to the Lord.

* In order to grow from infant Christians to mature Christians, we must learn discernment  We must train our conscience, our senses, our mind, and our body to distinguish good from evil.  Can you recognize temptation before it traps you?  Can you tell the difference between a correct use of Scripture and a mistaken one? (NLT)

Hebrews 5:12-14 – You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others.  Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn about the Scriptures.  You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food.  And a person who is living on milk isn’t very far along in the Christian life and doesn’t know much about doing what is right.  Solid food is for those who are mature, who have trained themselves to recognize the difference between right and wrong and then do what is right.

* Discipline needed in Christian life

Winning a race requires purpose and discipline.  Paul uses this illustration to explain that the Christian life takes hard work, self-denial, and grueling preparation.  As Christians, we are running toward our heavenly reward.  The essential disciplines of prayer, Bible study, and worship equip us to run with vigor and stamina.  Don’t merely observe from the grandstand; don’t just turn out to jog a couple of laps each morning.  Train diligently–your spiritual progress depends upon it. (NLT)

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 – Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the price.  You also must run in such a way that you will win.  All athletes practice strict self-control.  They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.  So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step.  I am not like  boxer who misses his punches.  I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should  Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

* The need for spiritual check-ups

The Corinthians were called to examine and test themselves to see if they really were Christians.  Just as we get physical checkups, Paul urges us to give ourselves spiritual checkups.  We should look for a growing awareness of Christ’s presence and power in our life.  Then will we know if we are true Christians or merely impostors.  If we’re not actively seeking to grow closer to God, we are drawing farther away from him. (NLT)

2 Corinthians 13:5 – Examine yourselves to see if your to see if your faith is really genuine.  Test yourselves.  If you cannot tell that Jesus Christ is among you, it means you have failed the test.  I hope you recognize that we have passed the test and are approved by God.

* Do others recognize changes God has made in you?

Paul’s changed life had brought praise from those who saw him or heard about him.  His new life had astonished them.  They had praised God because only God could have turned this zealous persecutor of Christians into a Christian himself.  We may hot have had as dramatic a change as Paul, but still our new life should honor God in every way.  When people look at you, do they recognize that God has made changes in you?  If not, perhaps you are not living as you should. (NLT)

Galatians 1:24 – And they gave glory to God because of me.

* Spiritual growth results from God’s work in your life

Some of the believers in Galatia may have been in Jerusalem at Pentecost and received the Holy Spirit there.  They knew that they hadn’t received God’s Spirit by obeying the Jewish laws.  Paul stressed that just as they began their Christian lives in the power of the Spirit, so they should grow by the Spirits power.  The Galatians had taken a step backward when they had decided to insist on keeping the Jewish laws.  We must realize that we grow spiritually because of God’s work in us by his Spirit, not by following special rules. (NLT)

Galatians 3:2-3 – Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the law?  Of course not, for the Holy Spirit came upon you only after you believed the message you heard about Christ.  Have you lost your senses?  After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?

* Is your spiritual growth making progress?

Do you sometimes feel as though you aren’t making progress in your spiritual life?  When God starts a project, he completes it!  As with the Philippians, God will help you grow in grace until he has completed his work in your life.  When you are discouraged, remember that God won’t give up on you.  He promises to finish the work he has begun.  When you feel incomplete, unfinished, or distressed by your shortcomings, remember God’s promise and provision.  Don’t let your present condition rob you of the joy of knowing Christ or keep you from growing closer to him. (NLT)

Philippians 1:6 – And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again.

* How to live for God

Paul offers a strategy to help us live for God day by day: (1) Imitate Christ’s compassionate, forgiving attitude; (2) let love guide your life; (3) let the peace of Christ rule in your heart; (4) always be thankful; (5) keep God’s Word in you at all times; (6) live as Jesus Christ’s representative. (NLT)

Colossians 3:12-17 – Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you.  Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.  And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love.  Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.  For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace.  And always be thankful.

Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise.  Use his words to teach and counsel each other.  Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.  And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father.

* Can’t separate spiritual life from the rest of life

The spirit, soul, and body refer not so much to the distinct parts of a person as to the entire being of a person.  This expression is Paul’s way of saying that God must be involved in every aspect of our life.  It is wrong to think that we can separate our spiritual life from everything else, obeying God only in some ethereal sense or living for him only one day each week.  Christ must control all of us, not just a “religious” part. (NLT)

1 Thessalonian 5:23 – Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until that day when our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.

* Difference between becoming perfect & becoming holy

We have been made perfect, yet we are being made holy.  Through his death and resurrection, Christ, once for all, made his believers perfect in God’s sight.  At the same time, he is making them holy (progressively cleansed and set apart for his special use) in their daily pilgrimage here.  We should not be surprised, ashamed, or shocked that we still need to grow.  God is not finished with us.  We can encourage this growth process by deliberately applying Scripture to all areas of our life, by accepting the discipline and guidance Christ provides, and by giving him control of our desires and goals. (NLT)

Hebrews 10:14 – For by that one offering he perfected forever all those whom he is making holy.

* How we grow through life’s stages

John was writing to believers of all ages, his “dear children” who had experienced forgiveness through Jesus.  Those who were mature in the faith had a long-standing relationship with Christ.  The “young” had struggled with Satan’s temptations and had won.  The children had learned about Christ and were just beginning their spiritual journey.  Each stage of life in the Christian pilgrimage builds upon the other.  As children learn about Christ, they grow in their ability to win battles with temptation.  As young adults move from victory to victory, they grow in their relationship with Christ.  Older adults, having known Christ for years, have developed the wisdom needed to teach young people and start the cycle all over again.  Has your Christian growth reached the maturity level appropriate for your stage in life? (NLT)

1 John 2:12-14 – I am writing to you, my dear children, because your sins have been forgiven because of Jesus.  I am writing to you who are mature because you know Christ, the one who is from the beginning.  I am writing to you who are young because you have won your battle with Satan.  I have written to you, children, because you have known the Father.  I have written to you who are mature because you know Christ, the one who is from the beginning.  I have written to you who are young because you are strong with God’s word living in your hearts, and you have won your battle with Satan.

* The difference between committing a sin and remaining in sin

 There is a difference between committing a sin and continuing to sin.  Even the most faithful believers sometimes commit sins, but they do not cherish a particular sin and choose to commit it.  A believer who commits a sin repents, confesses, and finds forgiveness.  A person who continues to sin, by contrast, is not sorry for what he or she is doing.  Thus, this person never confesses and never receives forgiveness.  Such a person is in opposition to God, no matter what religious claims he or she makes. (NLT)

1 John 3:4 – And all who believe this will keep themselves pure, just as Christ is pure.

Those who sin are opposed to the law of God, for all sin opposes the law of God.

* Actions that come from right attitudes

Our wrong desires versus the fruit of the spirit. The will of the Holy Spirit is in constant opposition to our sinful desires. The two are on opposite sides of the spiritual battle.

Our wrong desires are –E vil. The fruit of the Spirit is – Good. (NLT)

Our wrong desires are – Destructive. The fruit of the Spirit is – Productive.

Our wrong desires are – Easy to ignite. The fruit of the Spirit is – Difficult to ignite.

Our wrong desires are – Easy to stifle. The fruit of the Spirit is – Difficult to stifle.

Our wrong desires are – Self-centered. The fruit of the Spirit is – Self-giving.

Our wrong desires are – Oppressive and possessive. The fruit of the Spirit is – Liberating and nurturing.

Our wrong desires are – Decadent. The fruit of the Spirit is – Uplifting.

Our wrong desires are – Sinful. The fruit of the Spirit is – Holy.

Our wrong desires are – Deadly. The fruit of the Spirit is – Abundant life.

* Training for the Christian life

As a great amount of training is needed for athletic activities, so we must train diligently for the Christian life. Such training takes time, dedication, energy, continued practice, and vision. We must all commit ourselves to the Christian life, but we must first know the rules as prescribed in God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:51). (NLT)

Metaphor: Race —- Training: Go into strict training in order to get the prize. —- Our Goal as Believers: We train ourselves to run the race of life. So we keep our eyes on Christ—the goal—and don’t get sidetracked or slowed down. When we do this, we will win a reward in Christ’s Kingdom.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 – Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

Metaphor: Race —- Training: Focus all your energies toward winning the race. —- Our Goal as Believers: Living the Christian life demands all of our energies. We can forget the past and strain to reach the goal because we know Christ promises eternity with him at the race’s end.

Paul said that his goal was to know Christ, to be like Christ, and to be all Christ had in mind for him. This goal took all of Paul’s energies. This is a helpful example for us. We should not let anything take our eyes off our goal—knowing Christ. With the single-mindedness of an athlete in training, we must lay aside everything harmful and forsake anything that may distract us from being effective Christians. What is holding you back? (NLT)

Philippians 3:13, 14 – No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.

Metaphor: Exercise —- Training: Spiritual exercise will help you grow in faith and character. —- Our Goal as Believers: Just as we exercise to keep physically fit, we must also train ourselves to be spiritually fit. As our faith develops, we become better Christians, living in accordance with God’s will. Such a life will attract others to Christ and pay dividends in both this life and the next.

Are you in shape both physically and spiritually? In our society, much emphasis is placed on physical fitness, but spiritual health is even more important. Our physical health is susceptible to disease and injury, but faith can sustain us through these tragedies. To train ourselves to be godly, we must develop our faith by using our God-given abilities in the service of the church. Are you developing your spiritual muscles? (NLT)

1 Timothy 4:7-10 – Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. This is true, and everyone should accept it. We work hard and suffer much in order that people will believe the truth, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and particularly of those who believe.

Metaphor: Fight/Race —- Training: Fighting the good fit and persevering to the end. —- Our Goal as Believers: The Christian life is a fight against evil forces from without and temptation from within. If we stay true to God through it all, he promises an end, a rest, and a crown.

As Timothy preached and taught, he would face suffering, but he should be able to endure. Paul used a comparison with soldiers, athletes, and farmers who must discipline themselves and be willing to sacrifice to achieve the results they want. Like soldiers, we have to give up worldly security and endure rigorous discipline. Like athletes, we must train hard and follow the rules. Like farmers, we must work extremely hard and be patient. But we keep going despite suffering because of the thought of victory, the vision of winning, and the hope of harvest. We will see that our suffering is worthwhile when we achieve our goal of glorifying God, winning people to Christ, and one day living eternally with him. (NLT)

2 Timothy 4:7-8 – Think about what I am saying. The Lord will give you understanding in all these things.

Never forget that Jesus Christ was a man born into King David’s family and that he was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach.

1 2 Timothy 2:5 – Follow the Lord’s rules for doing his work, just as an athlete either follows the rules or is disqualified and wins no prize.

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and peace – https://helpfulinspirationalblog.wordpress.com/. May you also find
answers to your question(s) through the Scriptures that address every situation
you face, and help with your problems: https://helpfulinspirationalblog.wordpress.com/topics-a-g/ ; https://helpfulinspirationalblog.wordpress.com/topics-h-n/ ; https://helpfulinspirationalblog.wordpress.com/topics-o-u/; https://helpfulinspirationalblog.wordpress.com/topics-v-z/

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