But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness, for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 
I like to be in physical shape. I try to exercise about four times a week in order to be somewhat physically fit. There are benefits to this, including the way I feel, my physical appearance, my energy level, my overall health, etc. These benefits are good, but limited. Over time, the body breaks down and gets older, no matter how much exercise you do.
Spiritual exercises, however, are beneficial in every way because they affect every area of life, and don’t decrease over time. In fact, the benefits extend even beyond this life into eternity!
These ancient disciplines were practiced by Jesus and believers throughout church history who were serious about their spiritual formation. Things like Bible study, prayer, worship, service, fasting, silence and solitude, and journaling can all be helps for our walk with Christ. Their purpose is to cooperate with God’s work in our lives and put it in a position for Him to change us to be more like His Son (see Romans 8:29).
Here are three perspectives I have experienced about these spiritual practices throughout my life.
- Guilt: When I first came to faith, I was instructed to start reading and praying and having daily devotions. These were helpful and enhanced my spiritual growth. I went to church, and that was beneficial as well. I was told that if I really wanted to grow, I should be at church on Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and Tuesday night visitation. I was serious about my spiritual growth so I took the challenge. What started out as helpful, however, was soon a source of guilt and obligation. If I ever missed a “quiet time”, I felt a nagging sense of guilt all day. If I had to miss church, I felt like I had failed. What was meant to bring me life became a source of spiritual death (or at least guilt). This is what I call my legalism stage.
- Avoidance: Over time, I recognized what was going on and the enslavement I was under. I also was encouraged by a different group of Christians about the dangers of legalism and how it distorts my relationship with God. We are in right relationship with God based on what He has done for us through Christ, not based on any self-effort or trying to measure up to a standard. This was very helpful teaching and a truth I still hold firmly today. But, since many in this crowd were “recovering legalists,” there was an aversion to any form of spiritual practices and a fear that any effort on our part was a return to trying to score brownie points with God. This led to a more passive attitude on my end towards the Spiritual Practices. I might call this my passive stage.
- Meaningful: “Grace is not opposed to effort, but to earning,” said Dallas Willard. God is at work in my life. I am already accepted by Him because of what Christ has done for me on the cross. That doesn’t mean, though, that the Christian life is passive. I can cooperate with God’s work in my life and develop certain spiritual exercises and habits that will put me on the path to becoming the man I want to be. If I miss a day of Bible reading, it’s OK. God still loves me. But I also realize that over time, I will develop a deeper relationship with God as I renew my mind with His truth, and put myself in a position to allow him to transform me rather than being conformed to the world (see Romans 12:2).
We don’t drift into holiness. My default mode will take me down a path away from Christ, not towards Him. That’s why I find the Spiritual Practices meaningful. They are the means of grace that God provides which put me in a position to hear from God and allow Him to change me. My prayer is that this is a stage of meaningful engagement and spiritual growth.
Which spiritual discipline do you want to practice that will make your walk with Christ richer, deeper, and more meaningful? Are you drifting away from God, or actively pursuing Him?
 The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), 1 Tim. 4:7–8.