With the new year upon us, lots of people are resolving to get healthy. We might take a look around the Internet or Pinterest and decide to try that ten-day cleanse we’ve heard so much about or go vegan for a month. But the fitness gurus tell us that the secret to success in health does not come from the juice cleanse or the extreme diet of carrots and apples for a month. Instead, it comes from making consistent and healthy lifestyle choices—in a nutshell, healthy habits. Though imperfect, the analogy of healthy habits can be applied to the Christian life.
Just as our body works best when we employ healthy habits such as eating the right foods and practicing regular exercise, healthy habits serve to feed and strengthen our faith. Here are four ways to build healthy spiritual habits.
1. Spiritual health starts with the right spiritual food.
Our hearts and minds need the right spiritual food to feed our faith so that it is rooted in the truth. In Paul’s letter to Titus, he urges him to teach sound doctrine, that is, doctrine that is correct and free from error (Tit. 2:1). Sound doctrine teaches us what sound or correct faith is—faith that is rooted in the truth, in what God says—and is not swayed by the many devious and false teachers that are in the world (Tit. 1:10–16). To be properly fed, Christians need to regularly pray, attend a gospel-centered church, and read God’s Word to spiritually feed themselves with good food.
2. A healthy spiritual lifestyle is not complete without regular exercise.
A runner who does not train for the race might not finish the race and will surely come in far behind those who spent the months before the race training, and putting in their bodies only what will build their bodies up.
Paul encourages the Corinthians with this same analogy,
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:25–27)
Likewise, what we hear from God’s Word we must also practice consistently (1 John 2:24–25). Like a tree planted where there is good soil and regular water, faith that is healthy should bear good fruit (Matt. 7:17–20). Bearing good spiritual fruit involves a lifelong pursuit to honor Christ daily by keeping his commandments.
3. Spiritual health requires consistent discipline.
Following Christ in this life is like running a race. It takes practice and training (1 Tim. 7-10). These habits are tough to keep because they aren’t flashy or particularly fun. As with being healthy, we won't always want to keep these habits. Just as we don’t always like exercising, or eating a salad when our friend is eating a burger, we won’t always feel like going to church or taking the time to pray or read Scripture. But these habits are vital for they keep us from getting derailed when we are tempted, when we doubt, when we fail (Phil. 4:9; 1 Tim. 4:15). Healthy habits of faith can keep us running when everything in life is telling us to quit.
Denying ourselves and picking up our own crosses to follow Christ requires discipline. Thankfully, Jesus does not leave us to our own efforts. He gives us the Holy Spirit who indwells us and is working in us to grow us in godliness throughout our lives. When we drop a spiritual habit for a time, the important thing to remember is that we get back up and start again.
4. A healthy spiritual lifestyle requires daily reminders of Gods grace and goodness to us.
When you fail to live a spiritually healthy lifestyle, remember that your salvation does not rest on what you do. The race we run has an end, and thanks be to God that Christ already ensured that if we believe in him, we will finish the race as a winner. Christ ran the race and he ran it perfectly (1 John 2:2). He kept God’s laws perfectly and conquered all the obstacles that lie in our path—sin, death, and the devil. If we believe Christ died for our sins and rose again, and hold fast by faith to that wonderful news, even our failures that trip us up can’t stop us from winning the race and receiving the prize, eternal life with Christ himself (1 Cor. 15:56–58).