Physical discipline and fitness have long been priorities for me. I got serious about fitness in the summer of 2006, when I was in the Philippines for a short missions trip and got sick in the middle of the trip from eating poorly. I was debilitated in all my activities for the bulk of my stay. From that point on, I told myself that—for the sake of the kingdom of God—I would keep myself physically fit that I may persevere in the harshest and most potentially fatiguing of ministry settings. Since then, the correlation between busyness and exercise has been the following: the busier I’ve become with family life and ministry, the more frequent and intense physical exercising has become.
Thus, in anticipation of the new pressures and challenges that would come with ministry when my family and I moved to San Jose over a decade ago to serve in a church plant, I decided to put myself on a mile-training program written by a forty-plus year old who managed to run a mile under four minutes. Although I knew that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish that by the end of the year, I put myself in training anyway. With no official race ahead of me, I trained—running ten miles one day, and then running timed sprints around a dirt track on another, buffeting my body into a workout regime that was both fresh and extremely challenging for me. A few months later, some church friends asked me if I wanted to sign up for the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 10K Race—a week before the race was supposed to take place. Considering that I had technically already been training for it, I signed up for the race. And so, on Thanksgiving Day of this year, I ran the 10K at a personal best time. Signing up for the 10K race a week before I was supposed to run didn’t faze me, for although I technically only had a week to prepare for it, I suppose I had already been ready both in season and out of season, since during those “off-seasons” I had only been increasing in fitness.
I realize, however, that exhibiting readiness both in season and out of season is more important for me spiritually than it is physically. As nice as it was to be able to run that race at a personal record time, there are more important battles to win in life. Contrary to what people may think, spiritual warfare never ends. Certainly, certain seasons prove more convenient for ministry than others. However, as much as a minister may want to have “breaks,” Satan and his cohorts simply don’t work that way. Everywhere and at all times, the man of God treads a spiritual battleground.
For this reason, the man of God, no matter where and when, must have the Word of God abiding in him. He is called to integrity: he cannot preach that which he does not practice, and he cannot practice that which he does not know. The gospel that he is ready to preach to dying souls is the same gospel that renews his soul when he wakes up each morning. The truth he uses to admonish wayward souls is the same truth he must use in rebuking himself. The training and instruction that he gives to bless the saints is the same instruction that he uses to push himself to excel still more in his personal life and his ministry. Who is the man of God, except that man who is intimately acquainted with God’s Word and a fervent and faithful doer of it (James 1:22-25)? The man of God is no more than one who both delights in God’s Word day and night and walks in it all the days of his life (Ps 1). His heart is constantly trained and disciplined by it—in season and out of season—so that regardless of the course ahead of him, he is equipped to minister effectively to the dying souls around him.
Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness in accordance with God’s Word, so that the Scriptures are what you breath and bleed. Be slow to speak and slow to anger, and quick to hear (James 1:19). Humble yourself before God (Isa 66:2), and listen to what He has to say. Put off all fleshly lusts and passions (2 Tim 2:22; 1 Pet 2:11), and train your soul according to the instruction of these words which have strengthened all those ordinary saints who have walked before you and who walk with you (Heb 11). Let your intimacy with God’s Word be far deeper than any other source of information, so that the most effective Bible study to those around you is your own life. Believer, love God’s Word, both in knowledge and practice, that you may be ready both in season and out of season to fight this spiritual warfare with winning weapons.