Exercising the Spirit, the Soul and the Body in Martial Arts
Even before I became a Christian, I was always impressed by the discipline and wisdom I saw in our martial arts heroes on TV and the movies. I was convinced that a martial artist was able to do everything. They look to me like they had some kind of special powers or something. As I became a Christian I recognized that many martial arts styles were filled with spirituality. However, something was lacking, they connected with the wrong source of spirituality.
First Thessalonians 5:23 tells us, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (KJV)
Here Paul is writing to the Thessalonian church, he is informing the saints that he is praying that God sanctify them completely. To be sanctified is to be made holy. When we talk about holiness we are talking about being different from the world, we are talking about being separated for God. We can then expand by saying that God wants us, as Christians, to be holy physically, emotionally and spiritually.
As I write this essay, I realize that perhaps Christian martial arts programs around the world are the only organizations that are able to fulfill this Bible verse. That is because we do our best to influence our students in all aspects, not only physically. Martial arts are designed to help us grow spiritually, mentally and physically. If our martial arts schools are all about stripes, bets and winning trophies in tournaments, we have lost sight of what this is all about. Lets address these three components individually.
I had a friend who used to be a great athlete. He was one of the best volleyball players I have ever seen. Even as he was only 5’ 8”, he jumped so high and moved so fast that his stature was not really an issue. This same young man became a Christian some years later and, not too long after that, he was overweight and completely out of shape. I remember inviting him to play some volleyball and he will always say no, until one day, he quoted a Scripture he used to justify his physical condition and evidently, the physical condition of 90% of the members in our church. He quoted First Timothy 4:8, “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” (KJV) This man was an Elder in the church now and well respected, so I listened to what he had to say.
One day I decided to really take a closer look at that verse of First Timothy 4:8. Obviously taking care of our soul is more important than any exercise. We can be in great physical shape and be on our way to hell. Physical exercise cannot compare in importance to salvation; that is clear. However, the way this Elder presented the verse was as if it was not important at all to exercise our bodies. Nothing can be further from the truth. The Bible here tells us that it profiteth little, no that it does not profit at all.
Going back to First Thessalonians 5:23, the word body there it directly refers to our own physical body. We then, have a responsibility to take care of our bodies before the Lord. The Bible tells us in First Corinthians 6:19, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (NASV) Taking the condition of our bodies lightly is not Biblical. It is God’s will that we presents ourselves holy, separated for him in this area of ourselves also.
Emotionally (Soul) and Spiritually
The soul is what gives life to the body; if the body looses his soul, the body is dead. In Genesis 2:7 the Bible describe our beginning, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (KJV).
In the soul we have our feelings, emotions, intellect, our minds, decision-making, personality, etc. It is God’s desire that we prosper in all of these aspects of the soul I just numbered. The Apostle John tells us, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” 3 John 1:2 (KJV)
We can have a great physical condition, but walk around with a troubled soul. God wants us to prosper; He wants for us to be bless and in good health, but He do not want us to leave our souls behind. As a matter fact the Bible tells us that we can gain the whole world, but it will profit nothing if we loose our soul in the process (Matthew 16:23). This Bible verse is telling us that the whole world and what is in it can’t compare to the value of one soul.
Our spirit, on the other hand, is a different matter. Only those who are born again posses a spirit. John 3:3-5 tells us, “3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (KJV)
The spirit is the part of us that willingly cooperates with God; Jesus gave us the following truth regarding our spirits, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41 (KJV) Our spirit is the deepest part of who we are. Our spirituality or lack there of, will affect our soul. That means that when we neglect our spiritual walk, we will experience very uncomfortable emotions; sadness, regret, despair, depression, anger, etc.
What I am trying to say is that if you take your spiritual life serious, your soul will be strong enough to make the right choices, to read the right books, to avoid what is not Godly, etc. Taking care of your spiritual life will give you a stable mind. On the other hand, if we neglect our spirit man, our soul will be directly affected also.
Our soul and our spirit have a common enemy, the flesh. (Galatians 5:17 / First Peter 2:11) So, lets emphasize in taking care of our spirits as we already establish that is the part of us that is wiling to cooperate with God.
We were not created to die; after the fall of Adam and Eve we were introduced to two different deaths: 1. Physical death: We will all experience this death, with the exception of the rapture generation, and, 2. Spiritual death: This death took place instantly in the lives of Adam and Eve. The spirit in us is activated by the born again experience.
There is one thing that is designed to massively affect our spiritual walk and that is worship. In John 4 Jesus gave us a powerful lesson, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” John 4:23 (KJV)
Worship is a spiritual matter; if we don’t take care of ourselves spiritually we will end up worshipping other things; that is call the sin of idolatry. That is the sin that destroyed Israel and caused their captivity.
David committed many sins, but God still said of David that he was a man after God’s heart. God did not say that of Solomon; Why? Solomon actually worshipped other gods (I King 11:4), David never did; he had a heart after God, but he still had a flesh that when against God’s Spirit. That is the struggle that we all have according to Galatians 5.
We most take care of our spirits; it is from the spirit that our worship flows. Just like physically we need to be careful with what we allow in, we must be, especially careful, with what we allow ourselves to be exposed to spiritually.
In conclusion, the issue of holiness is more than just going to church, participating in a few Bible studies, getting involved in a few ministries and so on. We can do all of these wonderful things and still be emotionally unstable. James 1:8 tells us, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (KJV) This is the reason why many times our testimony is so horrible among the lost, because, even as we identify ourselves as Christians, our double mindedness make us people that nobody can count on. This is the part that reflects our emotional instability. I will go as far to say that the emotions we reflect are perhaps our best witnessing tool.
If we are always speaking negatively, gossiping and walking around depressed or if we are people that stand for nothing, we are no different from the world. This means that we are not holy; we are not separated for God.
We also have to be careful that physically we don’t find ourselves unable to function. As Christians we are not called to be lazy, we are called to work six days out of the week. If you are always tired, you do the minimum in your job and come home to seat on the couch and watch TV until you go to sleep, you are not holy in that area either.
Lastly, we must be diligent in not infecting ourselves with the things of this world that are designed to steal our spirits through the worship of other things. The world has a system that is designed to worship Satan, who is the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) It is impossible to worship God when we are friends with this world system. The Bible actually tells us, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:4 (KJV)