The Aqueduct of Segovia is one of the most well preserved elevated Roman aqueducts in the world. It was likely constructed toward the end of the first century or beginning of the second century CE, and yet it still stands today. It was designed to transported water from the Rio Frio River to the city of Segovia, Spain, spanning a distance of nearly eleven miles. The elevated portion of the aqueduct measures 2388 feet in length and is 93.5 feet tall at its maximum height. It consists of approximately 24,000 granite blocks fit together to make 165 arches, which are more than 30 feet tall. This amazing feat of engineering continued to carry water to the people of Segovia up until the 20th century when it ceased operation.
According to legend, it was decided that the aqueduct should be preserved rather than used. So, modern pipes were installed to bring drinking water to the town, allowing the aqueduct to rest as a treasured monument. But something unexpected happened. The aqueduct began to deteriorate. Apparently, the absence of water flowing through the aqueduct allowed the sun to dry out the rocks and mortar, which then caused the structure to crumble. As a result, the Aqueduct of Segovia is listed by the World Monuments Fund as a monument to watch due to its deteriorating state. Ultimately, the lack of use brought about the aqueduct’s demise.
We often refer to such deterioration as atrophy. Atrophy can be defined as a gradual decline in effectiveness or vigor due to underuse or neglect, and it can affect any of our living organs. Atrophy affects our physique if we fail to use our muscles. For example, over the past few months, I have been regularly jogging and/or walking on my treadmill a few miles each day. Running has always been my preferred form of exercise because, when I was in high school, I competed on the cross country and track teams. But once I exited high school, I quit running because I was no longer engaged in a sport for which it was required. As a result, my muscles and joints grew accustomed to not being intensely used. So, for the first few days of my newfound effort to exercise, my body hated me. Had I continued to exercise after high school, I would not have had to endure the growing pains of returning to an exercise routine. The point is that physical exercise is necessary for physical health in part because it prevents the deterioration of our muscles.
Atrophy is not limited to our physique; it can also affect our intellect. Failure to continue using the information you learned can cause that information to be lost. For example, I studied Greek during my freshman and sophomore years of college, which occurred before the inauguration of the twenty-first century. After passing those classes, I decided not to continue my study of Greek because I was entering into youth ministry, and I didn’t think that I needed more Greek to be an effective minister. Years later, I found myself in pulpit work and realized that the knowledge I once possessed about the Greek language could be useful in my sermon preparation and delivery. So, in recent years, I began trying to relearn concepts that I learned nearly two decades ago but lost because I failed to exercise that knowledge. The point is that mental exercise is necessary for mental health because it promotes the retention of information.
So, there is a correlation between health and exercise when it comes to our physique and our minds, but is there a correlation between health and exercise when it comes to our spirit? The answer is a resounding, YES! Scripture repeatedly indicates that spiritual growth necessitates exercise.
First, Jesus said that becoming like Him should be the objective of every disciple. In Luke 6:40, He said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone WHEN HE IS FULLY TRAINED WILL BE LIKE HIS TEACHER” (emphasis added). In this passage, Jesus established an expectation that disciples would seek to be “fully trained.” Additionally, Jesus indicated that such training leads us to be like Him. In other words, our training should produce Christlikeness, which, according to Paul, is the basis of the mindset (Philippians 2:5-8) and behavior (1 Corinthians 11:1) we are to emulate.
Second, Paul instructed Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:7-8 to “have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather TRAIN YOURSELF FOR GODLINESS; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (emphasis added). In this passage, Paul indicated that our spirit needs “training” just like our bodies. And such spiritual training is more beneficial because it impacts not only our “present life” but also our eternal life. Additionally, Paul indicated that our training should produce godliness, which is one of the attributes that Peter says we are to add to our faith (2 Peter 1:5-7) and one of the characteristics that Paul instructed Timothy to pursue (1 Timothy 6:11).
Finally, Paul, speaking to Timothy again, told him in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (emphasis added). In this passage, Paul indicated that the Bible exists to provide us with spiritual training so that we may be “complete.” Additionally, Paul indicated that our training should produce righteousness. Righteousness is an attribute that John indicates we are to practice as evidence of our relationship to God (1 John 3:7-10) and one of the characteristics that Paul instructed Timothy to pursue (1 Timothy 6:11).
All three of these passages presume that followers of God will engage in spiritual exercise. And the reason Scripture expects us to exercise is because a failure to exercise our faith will result in spiritual atrophy. Such is the point being made by James when he wrote, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). What James was saying is that a confession of faith absent activity is a faith that has atrophied. So, we engage in spiritual exercises such as prayer, meditation, memorization, fasting, confession, service, and worship, all of which are activities presented in Scripture as disciplines of the individual who pursues Christlikeness, godliness, and righteousness.
Today, I encourage you to examine your spiritual exercise routine and determine whether or not you are allowing your faith to atrophy because the one thing for which we do not want to be guilty is a dead faith.