Exercising Our Spiritual Muscles, Part 1
About the Guest
Exercising a muscle only makes it stronger. On today's broadcast, well-known author and speaker, Dennis Rainey, tells you how you can become an all-star by working out your spiritual biceps.
Dennis RaineyDennis Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Since the organization began in 1976 through 2017, Dennis’ leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries around the world helping families discover the joy God intended for their relationships with God, spouse, and kids. Dennis has authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples and Staying Close and has received two Golden Medallion...more
Dennis Rainey tells you how you can become an all-star by working out your spiritual biceps.
Exercising Our Spiritual Muscles, Part 1
Bob: Don't touch that dial. This is not The Weather Channel in spite of what you are about to hear.
Announcer: This is a special bulletin of the Family Storm Warning Alert System – information to follow.
Weatherman: The Family Storm Alert System has detect a major development that will likely culminate at 5:45 this afternoon. Following a treacherous commute through congested byways, an upper-level disturbance is scheduled to collide with a high-pressure system that has been growing since early this morning. Young children are advised to stay clear, as this storm could cause damage at any time. In the event that conditions worsen, please seek shelter immediately, especially if your home is not on a firm foundation.
Announcer: This has been a special bulletin of the Family Storm Warning Alert System.
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.
Dennis: I've heard those sirens.
Bob: You know, I think because most of those storms happen indoors rather than outdoors …
Dennis: … the neighbors don't hear them.
Bob: We're not aware, but in house after house, up and down the street, on your street in your neighborhood, these kinds of storms are taking place every day.
Dennis: In that time, Bob, you need a storm shelter. When I was a boy growing up, one of the memories I have is of that musty, cold, damp cellar that when the alarm would hit, our family would literally go crawl down the steps into a mud floor cellar that had jars that, you know, like they used to have to can tomatoes and …
Bob: … peaches and the rest …
Dennis: … and green beans and all kinds of vegetables, and we'd find a place to sit in there wrapped in a blanket while you'd hear the thunderstorm roaring by overhead, and our home never was torn apart by a storm, but we had a lot of storms hit nearby. And I think it's the wise family today that knows when it's time to truly head for that storm cellar and to decide, you know what? We need to regroup, and we need to get a plan to know how to handle the storms of life.
Bob: Many times you have pointed out on this program that storms are inevitable in every life and in every family. The question is not will we experience a storm, the question is what's the foundation on which our house is built when the storm arrives?
Dennis: Matthew, chapter 7, verses 24 through the end of the chapter, talks about two different houses that had two different kinds of foundations. One foundation on the rock; the other foundation on the sand; both had storms; both had difficulties and, like you just said, Bob, both had trouble. But I have pointed out in the past – well, really three things about this passage. Number one, storms will occur. It may be peaceful, calm and quiet. You may be on your first year of marriage, it may be the honeymoon; trust me, look to the horizon, turn on your weather radar of Scriptures. The Scriptures will warn you there is trouble ahead.
Remember what Job said? "Like the sparks flying upwards out of a fire so man is born to have trouble." The second thing about storms is storms reveal the foundation.
Bob: That's right.
Dennis: They reveal what the foundation is. When the storm hits, if your foundation has not been built on the rock, you're going to find the cracking and the division, the lack of peace, the lack of harmony that occurs when two people have not established their home on the Scriptures and around Jesus Christ.
There is a third aspect about the storms of life – they can help us build our foundation stronger. In other words, if you respond to a storm by being obedient to God, obedient to the Scriptures, it's a lot like – Bob, it's a lot like a muscle. If you exercise it, it doesn't atrophy, it grows, and it grows stronger. And I believe if you begin to just exercise a little bit of faith in God, a little bit of trust in the Scriptures, you will begin to see your foundation rest upon the rock.
Bob: You know, if I were to look back to the family that I grew up in and asked the question, was our family centered in the Scriptures and was it focused on Jesus Christ? We were churchgoers, but I couldn't say that was at the foundation of our family. When you have not had, as a model, a spiritually centered family, it's hard to know where to begin and how to grow a spiritually strong family. How do you help couples begin that process?
Dennis: Well, you know, I think a lot of families are today coming out of those kind of homes – from homes where they're going, what do you mean "spiritually grow?" What does that look like?
Well, let me just give you three reasons you need to spiritually grow. First of all, God designed you to grow spiritually. When we talk about spiritual growth, we're talking about someone who exercises his soul in a relationship with God as you confront life so that when you confront daily decisions, you make choices not on the basis of what you see but on the basis of what the Scriptures tell you is the truth.
An illustration of that could be, as one of our sons came home one day and said a word that wasn't a good word, and, you know, you can let that slide. You can think that's not a point of growth, but it is. So with my son I said, "You know, son, the Bible talks about letting no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, and we're really not going to use those words around here."
Now, we like to think of growth occurring and being over and done with, but I have to tell you that in the process of raising that young lad to adulthood, there were repeated – there were repeated opportunities to bring that young man to a fork in the road and call him to believe the Scripture and to place his faith there and take steps of faith and obedience to delete those words from his vocabulary; to catch his tongue and to realize those words do matter.
And as a result of making those choices, not only do you grow as a parent, but you call your son or your daughter to begin to grow. It may be a small step for them but, you know, even a small step, Bob, is a beginning step, and it's to have your child and you walking in the right direction.
Bob: I think what you're saying is we never stop growing, none of us ever stop growing. We've got to acknowledge that fact. We were made to grow, and it's a lifelong process.
Dennis: And the key statement there is God designed you to grow spiritually. Secondly, I believe we're commanded to grow spiritually. Throughout the Scriptures, you see God commanding us to obey the truth. In Amos, chapter 5, He talks about "Seek me that you may live." It is a picture of growth and experiencing life and not death.
And, you know, I don't think we many times think of growth as being obedience, but it is. If we choose God's way, we will grow, and we are being obedient to what He has called us to do, and that really leads me to the third reason we need to grow – life is found there.
I just brought something home from my 90-year-old mother's home. My mom, not long after she gave birth to me in 1948, was given a little ceramic pair of booties that actually formed a vase. It's a very small vase, not a tall vase at all, but in that vase was planted a green plant of some kind and I'm sorry I don't know the name of this plant, because it deserves applause right now. But I just brought that plant home, Bob.
Bob: It's still growing.
Dennis: It is the same plant that she was given in 1948, February 11, when I was born.
Bob: It's an antique plant, it's ancient.
Dennis: You know, it's a lot like a redwood tree, Bob, but it's not that big around.
Bob: That's right.
Dennis: It's not very long and you know the interesting thing is – when I brought it home, the edges of the little vase are calcified from water being poured in there, all the minerals in the water that have evaporated over the years, but did you know there was no soil – no soil in the vase. She'd put a little drop of plant food in there every once in a while. But I brought it home, it's now upstairs in our bedroom, and I put some soil in there, and I put a little bit of water and some food, and it's growing. It's a lot longer than when I first brought it home from my mom.
Now, she's had to trim it, she's had to nurse it, as it almost died, but that plant is the same plant she was given and, you know, there is life in that plant. I've thought about the symbolism of that as I brought it home from my Mom's house and thought, "You know, that little vase represents something that's symbolic of my life." And I, as a follower of Jesus Christ, made in the image of God – need to make sure that I am growing spiritually, and that the soil is not gone from my life. That's really the command for you and me – we are to grow spiritually.
Bob: You know, there are some listeners who want us to go ahead and skip past talking about growing spiritually. Just get your mom on the phone and do plant tips for the rest of the program, because they go about two months, and their plants are dead. They can't figure this thing out, you know?
Dennis: Yeah, well, I can't say that my mom is that gifted with plants. You know what we'll do? We'll put this plant on the website, a picture of it with the little ceramic booties that it's growing out of, and we're going to find out from our listeners …
Bob: … what kind of plant it is.
Dennis: There will be somebody who will know what kind of plant this is.
Bob: All right, you can go to our website at FamilyLife.com, and there will be a …
Dennis: … mystery plant.
Bob: Yeah, the mystery plant indicator there. You know, when I think about growing physically, think about my muscles growing, if I wanted them to grow and develop, I'd have to go down to the gym, and I'd have to work out on a regular basis.
Dennis: Bob, did you say have to?
Bob: It's pretty obvious that I haven't done that in a while.
Dennis: There will be a picture of Bob …
Bob: No, that won't be there.
Dennis: There will be a picture of Bob's muscles on the Internet site right next to the plant.
Bob: Next to the plant.
Dennis: [laughing] And you know what we're going to do? We're going to name those muscles.
Bob: Yeah, thank you very much. You're getting a little too carried away with this idea. But the point is, for those muscles to develop, you have to do some exercise, and the same is true if we want our spiritual muscles to develop; if we want the spiritual plant in our life to grow, we've got to provide a little food and exercise, don't we?
Dennis: We do, we do. And, frankly, what that's called, Bob, are "spiritual disciplines," and for a husband and a wife or for a family to grow spiritually strong, there are a number of spiritual disciplines that they need to exercise. And I'm not going to talk about these in depth, but just to number them – our number-one prayer, you have to be uttering prayers before God all the time as you face issues where you are aware He is the Author of life, He is the one who brings growth, He is the one who can help you through a difficult time and you know what? Pray without ceasing sometimes just grips my soul. You know, I go, "Lord, I've just been kicked in the stomach. My family has just been kicked in the stomach. Lord, you've said all things work together for good. Will you work this together for good?"
Bob: Sometimes our children help us remember this – they're the ones who tug on our sleeves or who say, "Well, maybe we ought to pray about it, Dad," and we find ourselves kind of embarrassed that we didn't suggest that in the first place. But, again, Dennis, a lot of us didn't grow up in homes where prayer was a part of anything other than holiday mealtime. You know, at Christmas or at Easter, you said a blessing over the food. The rest of the time you didn't even think about prayer. And so for a husband or a wife today, for a mom or a dad to come together and say, "Let's make prayer a part of our family," they just aren't sure how to execute that.
Dennis: That's right, and, Bob, I want to talk more about prayer on tomorrow's broadcast. But I want to move on to a second way we can grow spiritually, a second spiritual discipline, and that's getting into the Scriptures. Listen to what the writer of the Book of Hebrews said – Hebrews, chapter 5, verse 12 – "For though by this time you ought to be a teacher, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God" – that's the Scripture – "and you have come to need milk and not solid food." The Scriptures actually pick up on this metaphor of growth, and they command us to move off of milk to the very thing we move toddlers toward, which is meat, or solid foods.
Bob: Every mother has had the experience of introducing the strained bananas or the sweet potatoes or whatever it is, the first time to a baby who is six or eight months old, however old it is when you begin to introduce solid foods, and baby kind of wrinkles up her face and chews that and spits most of it out but, over time, they are weaned from milk, and they begin to depend on that solid food for their growth and their nourishment.
Dennis: And if we don't move off the milk, what happens is our growth is stunted. So we're talking about a person who has become a believer, who has remained in that infant stage and not moved on to the solid food to move into their 12th month, 24th month, and begin to toddle around.
Bob: They've been at it long enough that they ought to be eating solid food, but they're still drinking milk.
Dennis: That's right. Verse 13 – "For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe." That imagery is right here. Verse 14 – "But solid food is for the mature who, because of practice, have their senses trained to discern good and evil."
Now, I want to talk very straight to you as a listener. This culture we are living in today demands that you, as an adult and your children have hearts that are trained by the Scripture so that you can discern between good and evil, between wisdom and foolishness, between life and death, and the only way, the only way you have the trained eyesight to do that is by taking of the meat of Scripture. It's the only way you're going to grow.
I will never forget a businessman that I challenged to join me in a Bible study, and I asked him how old he was spiritually. And here is a guy who had made a lot of money in his lifetime, and sitting over breakfast I drew a little line, and I said, "Here you are. You're 40 years old. Over here on the other side of the chart how old would you say you are spiritually?" Do you know what he said? "Dennis, I'm ashamed to tell you, I'm one month old."
And as I looked at him, it was as though for the first time in his life he realized, as a 40-plus-year-old man, he had come to realize, you know what? I better get with the program.
Bob: He wasn't saying that he had a month ago made a profession of faith in Christ. He is saying, "I've been active as a Christian for a long period of time, but when I look at my growth, it's been stunted."
Dennis: That's exactly right, and he's still on the pure milk and is need of no longer being a babe but to grow up. There's a number of other spiritual disciplines that I talk about in the book. One is worship. I have to tell you, last Sunday, because of a personal need I had, there is nothing like worship to turn the heart and to tenderize the heart toward God; to cause the heart to be more receptive to the Scriptures so you can grow. And worship is one of the non-negotiables that must be in your life.
I have been told by so many people, "I don't need a community of faith. I don't need to worship with other believers on Sunday. I can worship and commune with nature in a boat, hunting, or with people at the football game." Baloney. That is absolute baloney. You need to join together with other believers for corporate worship, for private worship, to lift your heart in song and in filling your heart with adoration and acknowledgement that there is a God who is control, and you are not in control.
Another spiritual discipline is giving and service. It's placing the needs of others above your own. If you want to grow, you can't be focused on your own problems. You have to have your life directed outward.
Bob: That's right.
Dennis: All of Scripture commands us to not merely look out for our own interests but for the interest of others.
A couple of others that result in growth – fellowship with other believers. Ah, Bob, this is so sweet. You'll never grow and become the man, the woman, God made you to be without a group of Christians around you who are challenging you in a healthy growth to become the man or woman that God designed you to be with the gift set and the talent pool and everything in the total package you have. You need other believers to call you out to become that person.
And, finally, the last spiritual discipline that I've listed is proclaiming Christ, witnessing for Him. Nothing causes growth quite like telling another person about redemption, which reminds you that you were redeemed, and it reminds you of the power of the Gospel to forgive your sins and to create the spiritual capacity to now grow as a human being.
Bob: You know, as you talk about all of these spiritual disciplines, it occurs to me that they begin as individual activities. These are things that all of us, as believers, need to be involved in – prayer and study of the Word, and worship and community with other believers – fellowship and giving. And yet as we are growing spiritually on an individual level, we need to take it to the next step and begin to come together as a family to make these corporate activities within the nucleus of our family, right?
Dennis: No doubt about it. If you don't grow as a unit, you're missing the very design God created for the family structure to encourage spiritual growth in each member of that family.
Bob: You know, I was listening to a tape not long ago from Carolyn Mahaney, who has been a guest of ours here on FamilyLife Today. She quoted Paul David Tripp, who has also been with us on our program and said that most families spend a lot of time and effort and money planning for their vacation, but Tripp made the point, and she reiterated it, most of us don't spend nearly as much time thinking about the spiritual growth or development of our families, which ought to be taking place throughout the year. We work hard for the one-week getaway, and then we ignore putting any effort or thought or money or time into the ongoing spiritual growth of our family. And how much more important is that than a vacation?
That's what we're committed to here at FamilyLife. We are committed to effectively developing godly families, and the book that you and Barbara have written called "Growing a Spiritually Strong Family," is centered in that same idea. And this is a simple, small book that I think is a profound roadmap for families that are just getting started or families that are trying to get on track spiritually. You just – you spell out the basics, the core things that are going to provide a spiritual foundation for any family.
You think about couples who are just getting married or couples who are new to faith in Christ, or couples who didn't grow up in a Christian home, didn't have a model, didn't have blueprints – this is a book that will give them, very practically, the tools they need to pour a solid, spiritual foundation underneath their family.
We have it in our FamilyLife Resource Center. You can go to our website at FamilyLife.com, click the "Go" button you see in the middle of the home page, and that will take you right to a screen where you'll get more information about the book, "Growing a Spiritually Strong Family" and about other resources we have here at FamilyLife that are designed to help you with your spiritual growth. Like the devotional book you and Barbara wrote for couples a number of years ago called "Moments Together for Couples."
Again, go to the website, FamilyLife.com, click the "Go" button in the center of the screen. That will take you right to a page where you can get more information about the book, "Growing a Spiritually Strong Family," about the "Moments Together for Couples" book, and if any of our listeners are interested in ordering both of those resources, we'll send along at no additional cost the CD series that features our conversations this week and next week on the subject of growing a spiritually strong family.
Again, the website is FamilyLife.com. You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY for more information on how to acquire these resources. It's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. Someone on our team can let you know how you can have these tools sent to you or, again, go to the website at FamilyLife.com.
You remember not long ago, Dennis, when we sat down with Beth Moore, who has written a number of Bible studies for women. It's been used in a lot of women's groups all across the country, and we talked with her about her own marriage and her own family and some of the spiritual disciplines that are a part of her family's makeup. It was really a delightful time, a fun interview, and a great chance to spend some time with Beth. And many of our listeners who have been through her studies contacted us after we aired that interview and asked to get a copy of the CD either to share with others or to hear the whole interview again.
This month we wanted to make that hour-long conversation with Beth Moore available to any listener who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount. All you have to do is go to our website or give us a call. The website again is FamilyLife.com, and the phone number, 1-800-FLTODAY. If you're on the website, and you're filling out the donation form there, when you get to the keycode box, just type in the word "free," and we will know that you want the Beth Moore CD sent out to you. Or if you're calling 1-800-FLTODAY, just mention that you're interested in that CD and, again, we'll be happy to send it out to you. It's our way of saying thanks for whatever you are able to do to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today financially during the summer months. We appreciate your partnership with us, and we wanted to find a way to say thanks. We really do appreciate your partnership, and we look forward to hearing from you.
Well, tomorrow we'll be back to talk about what a husband's assignment is and what a wife's assignment is when it comes to building a spiritually strong family. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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