Pastor, Are Your Metaphors Well?
The quick pace of pastoral life can cause the faithful minister to miss the vital metaphors of the Scripture.1 The physical activity image is fervently employed by Paul and must not be neglected.
The athletic imagery and events are illustrations used in conveying the importance of spiritual wellness. The apostle Paul’s words and letters denote a vivid awareness of balancing both the spiritual and the physical, as well as making appropriate analogies from the physical to the spiritual, as seen in the following verses from the New King James Version:
But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and from the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain (Galatians 2:2).
You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? (Galatians 5:7)
Holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain (Philippians 2:16).
I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).
But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercises profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come (1 Timothy 4:7-8).
And also, if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules (2 Timothy 2:5).
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteous which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Perhaps the absence of physical activity in the pastor's life is an indicator of not fully embracing the metaphors for personal application. That is, the Scripture indicate that the Christian life is not easy and requires great discipline. A commitment to physical activity serves as a perpetual reminder of the narrow sanctifying road. If one neglects the physical, the spiritual may not be too far behind. The spiritual and the physical are interconnected and serve as beneficiaries of each other. 2
Reading. Are you careful when you read or do you typically rush through the pages? Less can produce more, when intentionality is the starting point.
Running. Do you need to slow down your pace for your own spiritual growth? If you not receive the proper spiritual nutrition, you will inevitably run out of spiritual food to share.
Reflecting. Will you spend more time reflecting, rather than always focusing on directing? Meditating upon the Scripture is a necessary discipline that will produce the best of fruits.
© Jim Fisher, Ph.D.
Christian Education and Leadership Concepts, LLC.
Fit for the Fight, March 2011
1 Much of the information is taken from the author’s dissertation: The Relationship between Selected Disciplines of Physical Wellness and Spiritual Wellness among Southern Baptist Pastors, 2006.
2 Criswell, W.A. 1980. Criswell's Guidebook for Pastors. (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press), 355-356.