SEEING CHURCH AS A SPIRITUAL GYM
Over the last few years, the fitness/gymnasium industry seems to have grown remarkably. There was once a time when ‘going to work’ involved physical exertion and the use of one’s muscles. We called this manual labour. But now, an increasing number of jobs involve sitting – usually in front of a computer screen. Perhaps this helps to explain why more and more people now recognise the need to go to a gym so that they can get some physical exercise (to make up for the lack of it in their jobs). God has designed for us to be physically active. There are people, though, who cannot be (either temporarily or permanently). The apostle commented that physical exercise was beneficial – but it was no where near as beneficial as spiritual exercise – for physical exercise profits us here and now, but godliness (spiritual exercise) benefits us eternally.
for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
First Timothy 4:8
I suppose you “could go to the gym” and just watch everyone there do their work-outs. It would be technically true to tell others that you “went to the gym”. But this is quite different to paying your $20 a week, putting your work-clothes in a change bag, dressing in your exercise outfit (which I suspect legally involves wearing lycra), grabbing a fresh towel, topping up your water bottle, firing up Spotify, driving to the gym, putting your gear in the locker room, going to the exercise equipment and then working up a sweat and bit of muscle fatigue as you did your gym session, then showering, changing into your work-clothes, and going to work for the day.
In a similar way, I suppose it’s possible for someone “to go to church” and watch others seek God, pray, give, worship, serve, welcome, and support others. But the true benefit of going to church is not merely in spectating.
¶ I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD!”
The Apostle Paul has stated that physical training is of “some value” but spiritual training (“godliness” – striving for a Christ-like character) is of eternal value. The level of godliness you attain in this life is what you take with you into the “life to come” (1Tim 4:8). In this sense, our church is our spiritual gym. It is the place where we are challenged, exercised, trained, and put to work as we serve one another. In the same way then that a home-gym can’t help the average person achieve the same results as a community gym, neither can isolating yourself from your church community help you to be trained in godliness and made stronger in God.
To this end the Apostle Peter told the Christians in the churches of northern Galatia –
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Second Peter 1:5-8
I want each of us also to be effective and fruitful, just as Peter told these early believers. May God help each of us to grow in godliness each time we meet together on a Sunday and as we meet in our home-groups through the week. See you at the gym this Sunday!