As a child, my dream was to be a classical pianist. I was serious, and when I got to high school I worked hard for my dream. I had the best piano teacher in Baton Rouge (thanks to my mom), sacrificed getting my first car to get a piano (thanks to my dad), practiced daily, entered contests, and performed every chance I got. Ultimately, I applied to music schools and received a scholarship to LSU. I was achieving my goals and moving toward my dream.

Fast forward to the present, and now my dream is to live in the fullness of God. Oh, the magnificence of His love! I want more! But am I doing what it takes to reach that goal? To have a life full of what God intended? Am I working for it like I did for piano?

 Emerson, 17 years old

Emerson, 17 years old

We are in the middle of the 40-day All In series. Pastor Jon gave us instructions to pray and read the bible with a partner. I don’t know about others, but I let life get in the way of this challenge. And it showed. Not only was I not doing the challenge, but I wasn’t doing much of anything spiritually because I was so focused on getting my work done. My kids received a harsher tone, I needed more coffee, I fell back into old ways a little.

Once I realized the source of this little stumble, I had another one of those lightbulb moments. How can I be effective in the Kingdom of God (or even for my family) if I’m not spiritually healthy?

“Keep yourself in training for a godly life. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is valuable in every way, because it promises life both for the present and for the future. … We struggle and work hard, because we have placed our hope in the living God….” 1 Tim. 4:7b-8, 10a

God revealed a lot to me through this passage. For years, I didn’t put much importance on spiritual training. I took baby steps toward fullness in Christ, but I only had marked growth when I was putting in the work.

Keep yourself in training”
I was responsible for sitting at the piano each day and practicing. I warmed up with scales and arpeggios, played each piece over and over to different speeds on the metronome, and got better and better each day. How could I have been good enough for a scholarship without doing this? I am responsible for my spiritual training!

Spiritual exercise…promises life both for the present and for the future”
God wants us to have a full life in Him! As I train to become spiritually fit, I can trust this promise that it will bring value to my life now and in the future. More of that, please!

We struggle and work hard”
Putting in the hours on the piano as a teenager was not easy. I had to do the work. I had to make the time, follow my teacher’s guidance, sacrifice other things, and focus on the goal. Spiritual exercise takes work!

“We have placed our hope in the living God”
This! This is the goal, this is the reason, this is the why! Why the work and struggle is worth it. My hope is in God, the living God, that promises life!

Could I have enjoyed playing the piano without all the training and sacrifice? Sure. But I could not have reached my full potential and I would not have enjoyed the benefits of that. I would have never experienced the thrill of playing a beautiful piece for my own and others’ enjoyment. I can always enjoy the love of God, no matter what, but I want more than that. I want to experience the beauty of working toward a goal of fullness in Christ, for my life to have more value for myself and others.

Jesus modeled spiritual exercise for us. Spiritual disciplines include self-denial, fasting, reading the Bible, worship, prayer, fellowship, confession, and service, among others. I encourage you to choose one and start there. Remove something from your life that is not worth your time (I chose Facebook) and add in a spiritual discipline that you are not already practicing or that you want to do more of. And don’t forget to give yourself grace! Baby steps are okay and we don’t have to do anything to earn the gift of Christ!

If you’re interested in reading more about spiritual disciplines, check out these books:




Emerson Marino is a part-time editor, full-time mom to five kids, and wife to Kevin. She’s passionate about faith and family and loves a good conversation as much as she loves some quality alone time. She and her family have been attending the Vineyard since 2013.