My friend is a cycling enthusiast. Every day, she rides her bike down to the University for a hard day of studying then cycles back home, rain, hail or shine. There are some serious slogs on this particular route, not that I've ever ridden it; it tires me out just thinking about doing it just once, let alone every day.
As you can imagine, she's a pretty athletic person. That's why I was surprised when she was completely wrecked after going mountain biking with her boyfriend. How can someone who cycles 25 km every day possibly be unable to handle a couple of hours on a mountain bike?
She, however, could explain the phenomenon easily. She used to push herself, making good time, sailing past all the traffic and arriving on campus triumphantly sweaty.
After years of this routine, she found that her legs had memorised the route and were able to put in the least effort possible to achieve the same goal. She was coasting along, totally unaware that her body had gone on auto-pilot, and the exercise that used to be so taxing and beneficial wasn't really doing anything to make her stronger.
There are plenty of things I do on a regular basis. Cycling is not one of them. Reading the Bible is. I started reading the Bible every day when I was fourteen. It lasted about a month.
It is a major challenge to discipline ourselves to set aside time to spend with God. For some reason, almost anything else is more appealing, from scrolling Facebook to cleaning the entire house.
However, I believe it is absolutely crucial for building up our spiritual muscles. In 1 Timothy chapter 4, verses 7-8, the Apostle Paul urges his young friend, "...train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for the present life and the life to come."
When I got into the habit of jogging every day or so, I began to feel energised and revitalised physically. It was fantastic. When I worked up a steady habit of Bible reading just before bed, communicating with the God of the Universe, it breathed life into my relationship with him. It was incredible. I could hardly believe how beneficial and amazing it was to spend just fifteen minutes with God.
This year, I began to notice a curious thing. Despite reading the Bible almost every day just before bed, like I have been doing for years, I felt myself drying out spiritually. What was wrong? Why was my formula for training in godliness no longer working?
Effort in exercise
Put simply, I had gone on spiritual auto-pilot, much like my cycling friend. I was faithfully completing my exercises each day, without putting in any effort. My brain had memorised the familiar routine and was zoning out as I ticked the "time with God" box.
Here I was feeling spiritually dry, when I literally had streams of living water all around me, yet I was insisting on a little sip each evening, instead of a long healthy draught.
Now, those little sips, just like lifting light weights, going on a slow jog, or taking a short bike-ride, were perfectly healthy and right for my initial training.
But now it was time to take it further. I needed to struggle in prayer and wrestle with Bible passages not just skim over a few verses and send up a quick prayer asking for help in A, B and C.
That has been my challenge for the past few months, to dig deeper, push harder and walk nearer to God. The truth is that this is hard. It requires effort. You can almost feel the spiritual muscles burn as if you were racing up a steep hill. Despite all that, the joy and exhilaration found in this closer communion with God is 100% worth it.
Lucinda is a mum, she and her husband are starting Bible College. Lucinda is a French and English tutor who loves Scrabble, quilting, and puzzles. She runs a Girls Brigade company in Hobart where she lives with her husband of 10 months.
Lucinda Glover's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/lucinda-glover.html