For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:8 NIV)
Are you staying healthy? That’s the question we are asking as a nation, as a state, as families, and as individuals. Every single day we hear about the need for personal protective equipment (PPE). In California, you must wear a mask whenever you go into a store. For most California families at this time, in-person instruction at schools is not happening. Dining in at restaurants is not an option in the entire state. And in most counties, church buildings are not open for business. Why? Because we are focused on staying physically healthy and avoiding the coronavirus.
This is important. It’s important for us to avoid becoming infected and to avoid infecting others. Especially vulnerable are residents of nursing homes, who make up roughly 40-50% of all who have died in the state. There are others who have serious health conditions that make them more vulnerable as well. There have even been some rare cases of otherwise healthy people who have sadly succumbed to the virus. So we need to be careful and take care of our physical health.
But there is something even more important than our physical health, and that is our spiritual health. The Apostle Paul, in writing to his young protégé Timothy, said that “physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things.”
I like physical training. I like to work hard and develop strength and conditioning, because I find a lot of value in it. I could go on and on about how physical training helps me to feel better about myself, reduces stress and blood pressure, and helps my back to perform better and hurt less. I could quote statistics about how exercise helps to prevent heart disease, to lose weight, and to increase our life span. So physical training has value!
But compared to godliness, compared to a relationship with God, it doesn’t measure up. Godliness has value in every way, because it holds promise “for both the present life and the life to come.” You see, no matter how careful we are with physical training, it can’t prevent death. No matter how stringent our protocols become, there is no PPE that can protect us from death.
We have pushed God to the fringes of our culture, so this life is pretty much all that is left. So a disease can rob us of everything if we die. An illness could separate us forever from a loved one. So we have had a laser-like focus on our physical health.
Unfortunately, we have not focused as much on our spiritual health. According to an article in the July 22 issue of Christianity Today, the annual “State of the Bible” report revealed that during the pandemic, engagement with the Bible declined rapidly among those who were described as “engaged,” that is, who previously had been reading the Bible very regularly. It appears that the closing of churches and the seriousness of the situation has had a powerful negative effect on believers.
So how spiritually healthy are you? I have been delighted over the last months to hear stories from many of you who are faithfully reading the Bible at home, tuning in to worship services and Bible studies online, and having devotions with your family. It’s important that we keep these practices going, because our spiritual health is suffering. Make no mistake about it –changes in our worship habits have a direct impact on our spiritual health.
So what can we do? There are some basic practices we can all do to maintain our spiritual health.
Meditate on Scripture. We are dealing with powerful emotions on a daily basis. Depression, anger, fear, and sorrow are commonly expressed these days. Meditating on the Psalms (Psalm 1 for example) can provide a wealth of strength from the Lord. It’s time for us not simply to read the Bible , but to listen carefully.
Use a devotional resource. The Treasury of Daily Prayer and Portals of Prayer are good written resources for Lutherans. One can also listen to daily devotions from Lutheran Hour ministries. There are also thousands of devotional books out there that can be helpful. Perhaps a fun online discussion could be based on exchanging titles.
Sing hymns. Singing the hymns of the Christian faith can be a powerful resource during difficult times. A hymnal such as the Lutheran Service Book, available from www.cph.org, has orders for prayer and family devotion as well as hundreds of hymns. www.Gettymusic.com has a large selection of contemporary hymns that you can listen to.
Pray. Pouring out our souls to God is very cathartic. When we realize that prayer is more a conversation with God based on His Word and less about a list of requests, a deep and powerful prayer life begins to emerge.
There is much more that could be said, but let me end with this. Please take care of your physical health. It is important, and it’s good management of the body God gave you. But even more important is the care of your spiritual health, for it has value for both the present life and the life to come. We do not need to fear sin or death, because Jesus has canceled the debt of our sin and He has risen from the dead.
The Lord be with you.