I’m going to be up front with you right from the start of this blog, there are things I’m going to say today which you may not like and may be a bit controversial. Why? Because today I’m going to talk about the need for constant self-development and improvement in order to be healthy, and a lot of people really aren’t interested in hearing about these things. There have been so many fads and fazes and poorly presented messages about self-improvement that nowadays people don’t want to hear about it anymore. A lot of people take the perspective that “I am who I am and that’s just fine, I don’t need to change”, and while that’s true to the point that you are who God made you to be, I don’t believe there is such a thing as a holding pattern in life. We are either moving forwards or moving backwards, there is no in between. The reason for this is that life is always moving forward, society is always growing and changing, and we need to grow to keep up. Does that mean that we always need to grow or go the same way that society does? Not at all, and a lot of the time we need to be very careful in following the lead of popular culture, but if we are to resist it we also need to grow our strength to do so. And if we are to pursue our purpose, which will often require challenging some of society’s norms, then we definitely need to focus on our growth.
In order to be in a position to pursue purpose in our lives, or to be ‘fit for purpose’, there are three key areas I believe we need to focus on developing: physical, spiritual and mental. Another way of thinking about it is body, spirit and soul. In order to truly live to our full potential and achieve all that we have been designed to achieve, we need to be constantly training and developing each of these areas. While each of these areas could be a blog on their own, let’s take a moment and have a look at each of them:
Our Body: This is probably the most obvious area in a lot of ways, but it is also often the most complicated. Everywhere we look there are messages about what we should be doing, and so often they contradict each other. Putting all the hype and controversy aside, our bodies are the physical vessel we use to live out our purpose, so it’s important to look after them. We need to train our bodies in two ways to keep them healthy. Firstly, we need to exercise and keep active. This will often look different for different people, but the key part is that we are as physically active as best we can be. It may be running, walking, swimming, lifting weights, climbing, or a plethora of other things, as long as you do something active most days or as often as you can. The second part of physical health is what we put into our bodies, what we eat and drink. Again, this can be a controversial topic and there are a million different diets out there all claiming to be the right one, but at the end of the day I think it boils down to some simple principles. If we work on eating mostly unprocessed food (meat, fruit, vegetables), not having too much salt and sugar, and watching our portion sizes, that will go a long way to helping our physical health. Again, it will look different for everyone, but the basics remain similar. Without our bodies, it is simply not possible to live out our purpose, so we need to train them to be healthy.
Our Soul: The second area we need to train is our soul, which can also be thought of as our mind. Training our mind might sound a bit odd or new-ageish, but our mind is so often what we use to make decisions and set our direction so it is essential that it is healthy. Again, a lot of people will want to complicate how we can train our mind, and probably sell you a whole heap of fancy sounding mumbo-jumbo, but I think in a lot of ways it is simpler than it sounds. Not necessarily easier, but simpler. There are two things to focus on when training our mind, firstly we need to focus on our internal thought processes. Often when something goes wrong, or we are stressed or anxious, it is our own thoughts that are our worst enemy. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we react, and this is where training our mind makes a difference. Romans 12:2 talks about being transformed through the renewing of our minds. If we allow our thought patterns to be mainly negative then anything challenging that happens is going to drag us down. But if we train our mind to seek the positive in things then tough times become obstacles to be overcome, not obstructions to stop our progress. Our perspective changes everything. The second way we need to train our mind is through education. Whether it’s reading books, listening to speakers or podcasts, watching educational videos, or through some other medium, we need to be constantly trying to learn. We can never know it all, and there is always new information coming out or things we haven’t heard of before, so we can always be learning. By seeking constant learning we keep our mind active, which will help it be healthy and creative when we need to use it for living out our purpose.
Our Spirit: Our spirit is often the most neglected area when it comes to training, yet it is the most important area to keep healthy. Our spirit is the core of who we are. If our body is the WHAT we do, and our mind is HOW we decide to do it, our spirit is WHO we are in doing it. Because of this, training our spirit is critical. In 1 Timothy 4:8 Paul says “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” Paul doesn’t discount physical training, but says that spiritual training (training for godliness) is better because it holds eternal benefits. So how do we train our spirit? I see there are three ways. Firstly, we need connect with God through prayer, Bible reading, and worship. John 15:5 says “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” The more time we spend with God, the more our spirits will grow to be like Him and the more effective we will be. Secondly we need to connect with other Christians. Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” In other words, when we meet with other Christians they can challenge us and help us to grow. Finally, we must put our spiritual training into practice. James 2:18 says “But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” Just like we need to be physically active to maintain our physical health, we need to be putting our faith into action to be spiritually healthy.
In order to live out our purpose to its fullest potential we need to train ourselves to maintain our health across three key areas. We need to train ourselves physically to ensure that our bodies are as healthy as they can be as this will help us in putting our purpose into action. We need to train our minds to be healthy so that when we need to plan and make decisions around our purpose we are in the best state we can be to do so. Keeping our mind healthy also helps us withstand the challenges and difficulties we face as we can see them as obstacles to overcome, not obstructions which stop us. Finally, we need to train our spirits to ensure we are constantly growing in ourselves for the journey ahead. We do this by making time to connect with God, connect with other Christians, and connect our faith into actions. By training our spirits, bodies and souls we can ensure we are as fit as possible to live out the purpose God has designed us for.