Three Exercises For the Soul
Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies
by Bob Burridge ©2011
We would all like to be healthy and physically fit. To do that we need to eat well, get regular and sufficient sleep, and keep our bodies exercised regularly.
We also want to be spiritually healthy. We would like to be confident, comforted and, calm in the Lord as we live each day.
To become spiritually healthy believers we also need to do certain things. We need to pray, to feed on God’s word, to worship, and to fellowship with believers in Christ who can encourage us and help us correct wrong attitudes and behaviors. There are some good spiritual exercises that help us grow strong.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 gives us three good spiritual exercises to do daily. However, like exercise videos you won’t benefit by just reading about them, or by doing them rarely. They must be used regularly.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (KJV), “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
Spiritual Exercise #1: Rejoice evermore.
Joy comes into a believer’s heart by God’s grace. It is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). To begin with, make your salvation sure. Hope of a real enduring joy without Christ is an empty dream.
Rejoicing is also something God commands his children to do. This verse is an imperative, a command. It says literally, “Always be rejoicing.” The grammar shows that this is an ongoing thing to be doing. It is a regular daily exercise, not just something you do when all is going well.
The world’s rejoicing is based upon outward circumstances. Anyone can stir up joy when things go well. The reality is: things don’t always go well.
The believer’s rejoicing is based upon spiritual circumstances. We know that in all situations God is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28). Don’t just rejoice when you get what you want. Trust that whatever comes is part of the greatest good. Rejoice in the assurances God gives you. Circumstances change and are not always pleasant, but his promises and faithfulness are changeless.
Even when the Thessalonians were going through persecutions, even when the Apostle Paul was arrested and beaten for his faith, he told us that he had good cause to rejoice.
God’s spiritual blessing that is found when you look to the reality behind what you see outwardly.
Spiritual Exercise #2: Pray without ceasing.
Being engaged in prayer is a continuing obligation. “praying without ceasing” doesn’t mean going around with closed eyes. It doesn’t mean that we are always consciously talking with God. That’s not the way those who are our examples in Scripture prayed.
It means that God should never be out of our thoughts. It means that we are constantly aware of him, and that we regularly turn our thoughts to him to call out to him in prayer. The healthy soul lives in continuing appreciation of God’s presence, assurances, and power.
- Be quick to turn to the Father …
- to praise him for his wonders
- to thank him for his blessings, and daily provisions
- to ask his help for yourself and for others
- to admit your moral failures and weaknesses
- to express your trust in the Savior and his promises
Spiritual Exercise #3: In everything give thanks
Nothing is exempted from thankfulness. We need to learn to see all things as they relate to God’s plan. The healthy soul learns to thank God even when it doesn’t understand the good he’s doing.
The Thessalonian believers were being treated very cruelly by pagan neighbors and persecutors. Even in all this there was reason to thank God.
The Christian’s thanksgiving doesn’t come from what he understands is happening. It comes from his confidence in the Lord who loves him so.
Thank him continually, all the time, every day. Paul had suffered false arrest, beatings and a long jail term. He had been sent as a prisoner to Rome and held there for trial. While under arrest he wrote to the church in Philippi, saying;
Philippians 1:3-4, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy”
Notice that all three spiritual exercises are present in this comment by Paul: He was rejoicing, he was praying, and he was giving thanks to God.
Even in hard times, the believer who exercises himself in these things will be spiritually strong.
Paul ends this section by reminding us that these things are God’s will concerning us. It pleases God when we keep up with these three exercises. To be spiritually strong and to please God, we need to make regular use of these exercises.
We need to remember that our exercise must be done from our position “in Christ”. Before someone gets into a physical exercise program he should be sure he is physically able. People often check with their doctor to be sure that they can safely do what’s required in the program without danger. If someone is unfit or has a respiratory or cardiac problem some exercises might be harmful.
Before you can expect to benefit from these spiritual exercises, you need to be fit for them. You can not do them while depending upon yourself in pride and self-confidence. You need to draw your ability and strength from the promise of God as a person redeemed in Christ. Only those confidently trusting in God’s provision of grace are fit to engage in these exercises.
When you recommend these three exercises to others, don’t imply that they are able to become strong by them without Christ. The first advice you need to give them is to make sure they are trusting only in the atonement for sin accomplished by the Savior. As we and others rest in him, God’s three-part exercise program will make us stronger.
(Note: The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Bible unless otherwise noted.)