The following is related to an earlier devotional post on “maturity”: how and why to measure our spiritual progress. If you’re not familiar with this series, you may want to review some of the foundational articles and videos on W.A.I.T. training and specific posts on “maturity“.
There are 24 such subjects on this website. You can use the search function to read the devotionals and related Scriptures, view training videos, and even watch contemporary Christian music videos on the same subjects. Simply place your smartphone or tablet on the reading deck of your favorite cardio equipment in the gym, or prop it up in a safe place as you and a friend exercise at home, or even project it onto a smart TV through wifi or bluetooth for larger groups.
I offer the applications below and others only as examples of how you might physically express spiritual principles. They are not magical formulas or guarantees. Neither are they substitutes for God’s call to gather with other believers for worship in a local church, to study His Word and pray privately, to fellowship with other Christians throughout the week, or to serve the hurting and lost.
In the metaphor of physical fitness, consider this series as a “supplement” for your spiritual health. I do believe, however, that these articles and related video which simultaneously feed our spiritual, physical, and relational health can be very practical. After all, the Lord created each of us as a body with a spirit for relationships. And remember, always consult a physician before beginning any new exercise program.
Suggested applications for meditation on “maturity”:
Every exercise program and relationship should be monitored regularly for growth toward maturity. Many athletes write down general goals and measurable performance objectives for reference points to check their progress toward physical fitness. You can use these and other methods to check your spiritual and relational growth through W.A.I.T. training.
Maybe you want to feel more peace or take more initiative in relationships. Write down these goals and list some specific contexts, times of the day, associated fearful or proud beliefs, and choose exercises that remind you of your goals so you can format your workout to meditate on and express your godly objectives. Then share your goals with your partners so they can recommend options, encourage you, hold you accountable, and give you their perspective on your progress during the workout. But remember – you’ll need to remain open.
Measuring growth (ours or theirs) can be exciting & stressful, depending on the individual’s level of physical and spiritual fitness. Because we will always struggle with fear and pride, we must always go back to God’s Word to see how He defines maturity. And, while it’s true that our partners should remind us of Jesus’ Word, we must constantly guard against becoming defensive or attacking them. Paul reminds us of the common temptation to compare ourselves to each other, even when we’re trying to help each other grow. (Galatians 6:1-5)
You can use the other 23 principles of W.A.I.T. training and your own studies of Scripture to identify other specific goals for relational growth. The key is to seek God’s desires, not necessarily ours, our families, our boss’, or our culture’s. To what will Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?
When you begin to feel the temptation to compare yourself to others, reread the section on ‘genes’. God made you unique, so He doesn’t call you to measure yourself against anyone else. Go to Him for wisdom and grace to do your best with what He has given you, and then make progress from wherever you are.
Use specific exercises to express your goals. For example, one of my goals is to be less of a Lone Ranger and to be joyfully interdependent in the Body of Christ. So when I do curls, I deliberately watch how my arms, shoulders, hands, and even my back need each other. Then I meditate on 1 Corinthians 12 and how parts of Jesus’ Body need each other. And, finally, I ask God to help me to be interdependent with others to function as a whole Body. Move your body in ways that express God’s Word and His goals for you.
You could even turn your written goals into a prayer/praise journal to track your growth. For example, after you write down your relational goals and the exercises you choose to illustrate your goals, record how long you exercised, the speed or intensity at which you performed the exercises but most importantly, record your emotions, beliefs, and how you related to others during the exercises. Over the weeks, look for patterns in your emotions, beliefs and how you related. According to God’s Word, are you maturing, stagnating, or regressing? Ask your partners for their observations.
Evaluate your maturity by measuring changes in relationships outside of the gym: your willingness to examine your soul, to commit to God’s Word and express His truth through your actions, to be vulnerable with fellow believers, and to be patient and long-suffering in your difficult relationships.
One simple method with your group is to use a scaling system. The Army often uses a “green, amber, red” scale, and you can do that, too. I like using a scale of negative and positive numbers, such as -5 to +5. Numbers may seem safer because they are vague concepts but negatives and positives can convey powerful pictures, so the combination has the potential for broad applications. For example, you could name a negative number to express sadness, lack of energy, feelings of loneliness, numbness, etc. And positive numbers could be used to convey excitement, hyperactivity, a sense of connection with others, assertiveness, etc.
Ask your partner “Where are you right now on a scale of -5 to +5” and “what is that like for you?” They may share their conviction (a sense of feeling ‘bad, mad, sad or glad’) quickly and clearly, or they might not be able or willing yet. But their bodily disposition will tell you a lot. Are they postured to hide or cover up? That could indicate a felt belief that they are ‘bad’ (guilty and fearful). Are they postured to attack – even with their squinted eyes or slightly clenched fingers? These may indicate a felt belief that they deserve something that they aren’t getting and are ‘mad’ about it. Does their bodily posture suggest low energy? Is their face down to break eye contact, or are they physically distancing from you or others? These can be signs that they are ‘sad’, believing that they have lost (or may be losing) something important to them. Are they all smiles or energetic to ‘keep the ball rolling’? These may indicate that they are ‘glad’ and believe that things will be good if they continue as it. But remember – just because you or a partner feels something that doesn’t necessarily mean the belief is true. Help them begin to compare their present belief to God’s commands and promises.
Tell them what you see and say something like “Your body language suggests that you may be (mad, sad, etc.)” and (depending on the trust between you and their knowledge of God’s Word). You could ask them to name their emotion and offer to read an encouraging passage of Scripture to them.
Ask them “how might we adjust the way we’re exercising together to help you move from ______ just one notch in the direction that God wants you to grow?” And later in the workout (especially at the end), recheck the numbers and ask what you both did to help (or hinder) maturity.
As you can imagine, God may use this type of workout to spark the interest of others around you. Someone will notice that your routine isn’t “normal” and ask about your group. What an opportunity to tell them how you’re working toward maturity as a whole person! You could offer them a copy of the book, meet with them to discuss it, and workout with them.
We can only pursue true fitness by knowing God’s Word and applying our faith in relationships. Sitting in a church once a week for religion is not an effective exercise for godliness. Help each other focus on Jesus’ work as our hope for maturity.
As we read in John 15, we can only bear fruit by remaining in Him. It’s impossible and foolish to hope to bear fruit first to earn the right to become part of the vine. That’s backwards! As branches, we will bear fruit when we live in the Vine! John 15:2 reminds us that He also prunes us to bring about growth, taking away the dead parts of our lives so we will pour ourselves into only what He has given us. You can also review Matthew 13:8 and 2 Peter 1:3-10 for God’s intent for maturity and Luke 13:6-9 for encouragement.
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