The origin of organized exercise can be traced back to Johann Bernard Basedow. Building upon Rousseau’s ideas of the “Natural Human,” Basedow opened the Philanthropinum in Germany in 1774. This center for physical exercise began by offering wrestling, running, riding, fencing, vaulting, and dancing. While writing a first century teenage pastor, the apostle Paul acknowledged the benefits of physical training. Yet, Paul felt that spiritual training provides a greater value for life.
For physical training is of some value (useful for a little), but godliness (spiritual training) is useful and of value in everything and in every way, for it holds promise for the present life and also for the life which is to come. 9 This saying is reliable and worthy of complete acceptance by everybody, 1 Timothy 4:8-9.
While runners warm up with stretching, Christians lean on prayer to prepare their hearts and minds for a new day. Just as muscles need to be loosened up prior to jogging, spiritual exercises requires tapping into the Holy Spirit. In a letter to the Church at Galatia, Paul lists a series of spiritual fruits to shoot for, Galatians 5:22-23. Perhaps, the passage below is a direct reference to the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Rather than develop an “Eye of the Tiger” mentality, Paul urges readers to hang in there with endurance and patience.
[We pray] that you may be invigorated and strengthened with all power according to the might of His glory, [to exercise] every kind of endurance and patience (perseverance and forbearance) with joy, Colossians 1:11.
From a human point of view, discipline and hard work will only take you so far. You may be able to beat yourself into submission like Paul’s analogy in 1 Corinthians 9:26-27. However, over the long haul, individuals need a higher power to invigorate and strengthen their soul. This is the type of spiritual exercise that Paul is talking about. If you’re feeling tired and weary, on the verge of giving up, spiritual exercise provides a spark to persevere. An Old Testament prophet uses the analogy of being lifted up by God so that endurance prevails. Isaiah 40:30-31.
by Jay Mankus