An unexpected blessing in my life in the past few years has been the opportunity for me to re-ignite my love for tennis by joining a tennis/health club. Since then, I’ve met so many great friends and I love the sense of community it brings. I love the challenge, too. I think if I just put in the time and keep taking lessons, one day I’ll have a decent serve…or backhand, or volley…the list goes on, lol! So I practice as much as I can. To that extent, it doesn’t even feel like exercise. I miss the court when I skip a day or two…and I certainly think it’s made this crazy time a little more bearable. I mean, it’s a game that’s naturally safe and socially distanced. Besides, who couldn’t use a little fresh air?
It simply brings me joy.
I’ve recently stopped to think, though, that as good as that is for my mental and physical health, I’m sure I need to seek some balance and use the same discipline towards spiritual strength. We have to take care of all three, (mental, physical, and spiritual), but the first two are temporary…the latter is eternal. Add to the mix is all the Covid restrictions. I’ve found that working from home has saved me both time and energy that I’ll probably never have again until I retire…a silver lining not to be squandered. I find that with opportunity comes accountability.
Looking at it from this perspective, I want to use this gift of time wisely. What does that look like? I certainly don’t think it means to be legalistic, denying that God has given us all (good) things to enjoy. (1 Timothy 6:17) We can practice worship just by being grateful to be able to run…or walk…or play tennis, or breathe. Who knows how long we’ll be able to? Every day is a gift. But if reaping blessings is all I do, it seems a little indulgent in light of the big picture.
As much as I love tennis, I can’t feel fulfilled if that’s all I do. I guess the best way to describe it is to refer to the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 2:1-24. Solomon, the writer of this book, was a man who enjoyed great riches. He had all that a man could ever want. Wealth, women, power, everything. He “refused his heart no pleasure”. (v. 10). He even took on great projects and sought happiness in work. And yet for this whole chapter he searches his life and calls much of these strivings meaningless, a “chasing after the wind”. He recognized earthly blessings but concluded that they are fleeting. He discovered that the only worthwhile pursuit is a life of honor and obedience to God. (Eccl. 12:13-14).
So I ask myself: what is it about our own strivings that keep us committed so strongly to them, rather than a stronger focus on the spiritual?
It’s Love. (no pun intended). If you love something or someone, you spend time learning more about the object of that love. I know that at times when my prayer life was most thriving, I would find myself praying throughout the day, and I could hardly wait for my quiet time Bible Study at night.
It’s Community – Like we have a community with our workout buddies and other like-minded friends, how much more do we have with our brothers and sisters in the Lord? What greater bond is there than a shared love for Christ and perspective in this world we live in? I believe we will need each other now more than ever.
It’s Good Instruction. We thrive on it. We need it. A coach may tell us how to master a game, but the magnitude of sitting under good, doctrinally sound teaching is essential in a spiritual sense.
It’s Discipline – With the same (and more) discipline we would dedicate to a sport, let’s seek to do the same in our spiritual life this new year. Is there a ministry that the Lord has laid on your heart? Carve some time for it. For me its writing, but I’d like to add a more personal one as well. I don’t want my life to just be about work and tennis. When I stand before the Lord, I don’t think the He will ask me about how much time I spent at the office or on the court. What I think he’ll ask me is whether or not I shared my faith, or if I reflected Him in my life. He will ask me if I used the gifts and time he gave me for His will. May we who know Him hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25;23)
Has Covid given you unique opportunities for spiritual discipline or ministry? What activities in your life (new or old) do you find compete with the spiritual? What are steps we can take towards living a life that praises God for the blessing and also glorifies him to eternal purpose? What gifts of time, abilities, desires for service can you give to God while you have it?