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I had been lackadaisical with physical exercise for a while. My workouts at home were decreasing while my sense of guilt was increasing. I knew I would need some kind of disciplined approach to get back on track and decided to do what had proven helpful before. I joined a fitness center.

As a new (actually, returning) member I was required to take a strength assessment. Though it had been a few years since my last one, I wasn’t concerned. I was well in my weight range and fairly active for senior years—or so I thought. I worked through various exercises, being assessed on the number of repetitions I could do and also at what level. Right away, I was shocked at how much strength I had lost in my years of complacency. My neglect had cost me and the old adage “use it or lose it” immediately came to mind.

Just as we lose physical strength through neglect, our spiritual strength can suffer by neglect, as well. If we are lazy about spending regular time with God in Bible reading and prayer, our spiritual underpinning will suffer. We won’t have quick recall of scriptures that encourage and comfort us. We won’t immediately think on God’s steadfast love and constant faithfulness because we aren’t reading about it regularly. Then when trouble knocks at our door, our spiritual muscle—our faith—may not give us the support we need.

To build body strength, we repeat an exercise over and over, usually in reps of 12 or 15 to a set. We are training our muscles, teaching them how to react. Now if we applied that to building spiritual strength, we might take a Bible verse and repeat it 12 to 15 times before we left it. Then we would come back and do it every few days, repeating it until it became a ready part of our memory.

For instance, if we had 2 Timothy 1:7 in our memory bank, the next time we felt fear approaching, we would probably find ourselves saying “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” That is a personal favorite and I call it forward every time I find myself tempted to worry. A verse I’m currently quoting to myself several times a day is 2 Chronicles 20:17: “Stand firm. Hold your position and see my deliverance on your behalf. Do not be afraid or dismayed.” And, as I claim this for myself, I am claiming it for two friends with a need similar to mine. There is nothing like trusting God’s promises in time of need and saying His words back to Him.

If we discipline ourselves in building physical muscle and faith muscle we won’t be disappointed when we need them. Body strength can keep us from falling. And spiritual strength can keep our faith from failing.

“You have been bought, and at what a price! Therefore bring glory to God both in your body and your spirit, for they both belong to him.” 1 Corinthians 6:20 (J. B. Phillips Translation)