Human beings like our health. We’re well acquainted with the pain and inconvenience of physical illness. It is a tangible “feeling” that something isn’t right in our body. Often our body tells us to slow down and rest, or through more violent measures, to go to the hospital for help. Other times, it can be a silent killer.
I’ll never forget the blank looks in one congregation as I brought up the concept of spiritual health. I learned quickly after the service that most of the people in the congregation had never considered the idea.
Implicit, not Explicit.
The primary reason we know spiritual health actually exists is that it is referenced in multiple locations of scripture. While not explicitly identified, we can see it implied and illustrated in texts like Psalm 1, as David describes the righteous being like a healthy fruit tree that is planted by streams of water, yielding its fruit in its season. We also see Jesus using the imagery of healthy trees bearing good fruit in Matthew 7:15-19. In both of these examples, the health found in fruit producing trees is looked upon with favor, it is evidence of the spirit of God acting in the life of the righteous. Whereas trees that are not healthy and not producing fruit are looked upon with condemnation. They are indicative of, at best a sick tree, and at worst, as John the Baptist would explain, would be “cut down” and thrown into the fire.
These illustrations can, and should be, very alarming for the person who professes Christ. A healthy tree grows. A sick tree doesn’t. A healthy tree produces fruit. A sick tree produces nothing. In terms of our spiritual condition, it should be alarming to us. We know that while salvation will not be stripped away from us if we are truly regenerated, continuous spiritual sickness is not indicative of the new life of the regenerate. It’s reflective of Jesus when he stated, “a good tree cannot bear bad fruit.” when referencing false prophets.
Good Spiritual Health is God’s Design.
We need to maintain a Biblical view of Spiritual health. True spiritual health has its genesis in Christ. In fact, apart from Christ, we are not spiritually sick, we are spiritually dead. To be spiritually healthy is to be in the will of God. God wants his people to thrive, to persevere, to effectively produce fruit that radiates His nature accurately. The absence of good spiritual health manifests through disobedience.
A spiritually healthy person is not exempt from God’s chastisement or sin-induced suffering in this life. However, a spiritually healthy person understands that God uses his chastisement and the struggles of sin to make us healthy. The sweetest fruit in the world often comes from some of the harshest conditions.
Spiritual Health Must Be Assessed
Spiritual health needs to be assessed regularly. Puritan Pastor John Owen once said that an obstruction to spiritual health is being a stranger to holy meditation and self-examination.
Galatians 5: 16-26 is a good start to assessing spiritual health. Do our thoughts, attitudes, and actions look more like works of the flesh or works of God’s spirit in us? As Jesus said, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.” The work of God’s spirit in us is the “fruit producer.” or the health-provider of His people. If we know that we have been made new in Jesus, and we are living in a pattern of fleshly behavior like Paul describes, then it is safe to say that what our life is producing is contrary to the life that is producing good fruit.
The Role of the Spiritual Disciplines
When we see health implied throughout scripture, particularly in a more agrarian sense, we also see growth. The means God has given his people to grow strong and healthy in this world is primarily through the spiritual disciplines.
JCS Field Writer Rob Stain said, “Make no mistake, you are called to play an active role in your maturity as a believer. God is still the source of power and “glory-receiver” of your sanctification, but by His design, you are called to influence the rate at which you grow as a believer. It is proportional to your engagement with God. This is because He has provided us with the tools necessary to grow as His sheep. Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit (Acts 1-2) and with Him, ordinary means by which we might grow in our walk.” (Read the Full Article on Spiritual Disciplines Here.)
Spiritually healthy Christians work in step with God’s spirit through these ordinary means of grace to “grow up into the head which is Christ.” It is difficult, if not impossible, for a spiritually healthy Christian to keep from growing into maturity.
Spiritual Health is not Optional.
For the person who proclaims Christ, Spiritual health and regular monitoring of it is not optional. Spiritual sickness can be seasonal, but it cannot be permanent. A seemingly permanent pattern of spiritual illness ought to raise concern for us and those we love about a life-saving understanding of the gospel.
Puritan pastors were sometimes referred to as “physicians of the soul.” This was due to the requirement of their position, and their proficiency at diagnostic work concerning spiritual illness and treating it symptom by symptom. Are you a physician of your soul? Although Christ is the greatest physician, are you capable of honestly confessing that you may need help? Are you well acquainted enough with your shortcomings that you can identify them? This is the first step toward true spiritual health.
Spiritual Health and the Christian Sportsman
For the Christian Sportsman, spiritual health is of incredible value. Sometimes we experience a theological block that finds us stuck in one thought process. Namely, creation and God’s hand in it.
God’s work in creation is unsurpassed. Romans tells us that in it, we can see God’s eternal power and divine nature. Christian Sportsmen can all agree that God is eternally powerful, and that He is divine. But what about the rest of God and what he has done? The trap sportsmen are in danger of falling into with “camping out” on one truth is that we tend to forget about all of God’s other attributes.
It is dangerous to our spiritual health to place all of our understanding of God and his interaction with us on one attribute or doctrine. James addresses this issue in the second chapter of his letter. Just as we will never become a well rounded sportsman by only practicing one discipline, we will not become a healthy Christian by building our faith on only one element of God’s presence in our life.
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