Thursday, January 17, 2008

Personal Spiritual Fitness

How’s your progress with your New Year resolutions? Did you make any?

The gyms are full of newcomers this month, and we have to wait longer than usual for an open treadmill or elliptical trainer. Most people set goals for physical fitness, but what about your personal spiritual fitness? Are you in training? Have you set any goals to maintain or improve your personal spiritual fitness?

The first priority for a minister, writes Evelyn Underhill, is that “his own inner life should be maintained in a healthy state; his own contact with God be steady and true”

It isn’t just the career minister who needs a strong inner life. Paul encouraged every Christian to grow in faith: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:16-17). You may be the only “minister” or “religious worker” that your neighbors, friends, or colleagues ever know. As Evelyn Underhill wrote, you are one of the “assistant shepherds.”

So if you are a layman or woman who does the work of ministry—counseling, encouraging, teaching, or discipling others—you must become spiritually fit.

“The soul of a priest—in fact, the soul of every religious worker—stands in a special relation towards God and other souls . . . He is one of the assistant shepherds, not one of the sheep. He has got to stick it out in all weathers; to be always ready, always serving, always eager to feed and save. An unremitting, patient, fostering care, the willing endurance of exhaustion, hardship, and risk: all these things may be asked of him. He is constantly called upon to give out spiritual energy and sympathy. And he has got to maintain his own supplies, his own religious health and suppleness, in a manner adequate to that demand; so to deepen his own life, that he is capable of deepening the lives of others. In the striking phrase of St. Bernard, if he is adequately to fulfill all his obligations, he must be a reservoir and not a canal” (Concerning The Inner Life, Oneworld Publications, Oxford, England, 1999, pages 13-14).

2 comments:

megan said...

This is very encouraging and challenging Bern. Thanks for putting yourself "out there!" It was good to see you last week. Keep writing!

Bern said...

Megan, it was really great to see you last week. Thanks for reading and commenting. Looking forward to seeing you and your friends in April!

Bern