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    by Susan McGrath

Shaping Your Spirit
Date Posted: June 26, 2008

I will be the first to admit that my body is out of shape. I can barely walk up a more than one flight of stairs without breathing hard and I'm a long way from running a 5K to support any cause. I can't bend over as far as I could in high school and I certainly don't look as good doing it!

Our society puts so much emphasis on how the body looks. Fitness is a multi-billion dollar business. I know, I know - it's important to be healthy. But let's be honest; most of us care more about how we look than how healthy we are. (It's okay; we can blame our sinful nature.)

Having a fit body is definitely a step in the direction of good health, but how often do I worry about the fitness of my spiritual life? How flexible is my spirit? I can no longer physically "bend over backward". Am I willing or even able to do so spiritually? Am I willing to bend over backward to be a witness, an ambassador for Christ?

My minister recently posed similar questions in a sermon and I began to think about what I need to do to keep my spirit in shape. Much like my physical body, which won't respond without training and conditioning, my spirit needs constant conditioning as well. Despite hearing and reading them more times than I can count, Paul's words have never sunk into my brain (or perhaps my spirit) with such clarity as they did this week.

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize. Run in such as way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." - 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Paul puts an emphasis on training of the body, but his message is that we are running a spiritual race, and rather than a crown of leaves we will be given a crown of glory by the Lord. So I suppose I should do a few sit-ups and take a walk every now and then. But more importantly, I must have my spirit in training so that I don't grow weary and stumble over sin or give up when Satan whispers malicious lies in my ear.

How do I do that? What is the best routine for shaping my spirit? Can I get a personal trainer?

Actually, I have several. I have the Holy Spirit who guides and comforts me and cheers me on. I have "a great cloud of witnesses" in my family and my church to whom I can look as an example. (And if I stick with my training program they can look to me as well!) I have God's precious, infallible, comprehensive, always-available Word to serve as a healthy diet of encouragement, truth and conviction. Finally, I have the opportunity to make prayer a constant workout for my spirit.

Essentially, I have no excuse for not shaping my spirit so that I might strive to claim, as Paul did, "To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." - 1 Corinthians 9:22

Now, about that bending over backward thing . . .

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Biography Information:
Susan McGrath is:

a recovering journalist trying to encourage others and glorify God through writing;

living the small-town life with husband Tim and sons Lincoln, 12, and Sawyer, 6;

completing a few put-off writing projects while using chocolate for therapy.
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