The popularity of fitness trackers is fascinating to me. Millions of people have been purchasing these small, watch-like devices to measure physical activity. Worn on the wrist, these trackers measure steps taken throughout the day. Many brands also monitor heart rate, calories burned, and hours slept. Some devices give wearers special virtual “awards” for certain accomplishments, such as taking a large number of steps during the day.
A friend of mine recently revealed his strategy for winning more points and awards. While driving he simply shakes his wrist or taps it against his leg. He accumulates the most steps at traffic lights… while stopped! We had a good laugh about the tens of thousands of “steps” he takes per day. We both know that’s not how it’s supposed to work! Our funny conversation revealed to me several parallels between physical and spiritual health.
Like physical fitness, there are no shortcuts to spiritual fitness. No miracle-pill exists. Change doesn’t occur overnight. Instead of actually walking, my friend wanted a short-cut. Getting fit requires intentional, specific changes to our behavior, consistency, and people to support us along the way. We are motivated to exercise, eat a nutritious diet, and make healthy choices when we keep the end-goal in mind. The apostle Paul told young Timothy, “Bodily training is of some value, but godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). Spiritual growth takes work. The New Testament compares it to running a race with endurance (Galatians 5:7; Philippians 3:14; Hebrews 12:1-2). To become who God made us to be we must consistently read the Bible, think and act upon what we read, and commit to other Christians for accountability and encouragement.
Like physical fitness, spiritual fitness is about being healthy, not looking healthy. Someone may have a workout wardrobe, gadgets, and fitness club membership, but appearances can be deceiving. The key to working out is… working out! The point is not rewards but results. Quality of life is what matters. Many people in Jesus’ day worked hard to look good on the outside, as if accumulating a bunch of spiritual “points” were even possible. He told them God could see the heart, and was not impressed (Matthew 23:1-36; Luke 11:37-54). Jesus said they were like beautiful coffins which appear beautiful on the outside but are full of bones, and like sparkling cups which appear clean, yet on the inside are filled with filth.
Like physical fitness, spiritual fitness is about heart health. Religious activity such as church attendance, being a “good person,” or avoiding certain things don’t automatically mean someone has a spiritually healthy heart. Jesus said sin is the symptom of an unhealthy spiritual heart, and “good trees produce good fruit” (Matthew 15:19-20; 7:17-20).
I recently saw a picture of a massive, old oak tree that had fallen in a storm. I hated to see such a beautiful and seemingly strong tree go down and become firewood overnight. How did that happen? The tree’s trunk was laid open for all to see, revealing a rotten inside. Though externally beautiful, it had been decaying internally for years, leaving it susceptible to strong winds and storms. Overnight it snapped like a twig. Like trees, we see seemingly healthy people “fall” every day. Perhaps it all started with a false view of fitness. Let’s put in the work. God promised He will work in us (Philippians 1:6, 2:12-13).
Dr. Chris Larmoyeux is the pastor at First Baptist Church Maumelle. He and his wife, Tonya, live in Maumelle with their three children. You can email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.