I’ve been thinking a lot about commitment lately. Specifically, how committed I am to different spiritual disciplines. For instance, reading my Bible every day. Or interceding for fellow believers. Or obeying God’s direction even when it means sacrificing something else (money, health, etc).
We use the word a lot in today’s culture. We talk about being a committed spouse or parent. We talk about commitments such as music lessons, team sports, or occupational goals. We speak of committing to certain responsibilities, like teaching a Sunday school class or being part of a prayer chain. But do we really understand the meaning of the word?
Basic definitions of the word include the thoughts of pledging to do something, binding or obligating oneself, and engaging in a specific position or responsibility. Like pledging to run a marathon, or being engaged in training for one. But I’m not sure those definitions really tell the whole story. For instance, what does it mean to be committed to following Christ? To be committed to growing spiritually?
Our Pastor recently preached about the commitment of spiritual growth, and he mentioned five things that are required for commitment to effect any change:
1. Commitment requires understanding. How can we commit to something unless we understand what we are committing to? For instance, in order to commit ourselves to praying for others, we must understand not only what prayer (or intercession) is, but what those we pray for truly need. We must understand how to pray for them. We gain this understanding by growing in our knowledge of God and His Word. Remember the admonition of Proverbs 4:5 – “get wisdom, get understanding; forget it not.” In order to follow through with our commitment, we must first understanding what we’re committing to do.
2. Commitment requires desire. Would someone who hates running commit to a marathon? Or would a numbers guy commit to writing a novel? I know those are kind of obvious, but why do we say we’re committed to something that we really don’t desire to do? We need to want spiritual growth in order to truly be committed to it. We must want to read our Bibles daily before we can be committed to following through. We find that desire by staying close to Christ, knowing Him through His Word, and keeping ourselves tender and receptive to the Holy Spirit.
3. Commitment requires focus. Can the runner complete the marathon if he or she veers off course, sits down in the shade, or takes a break at a nearby cafe? Of course not. They must stay focused on running… the entire time. And yet, for some reason we think we’ll grow spiritually even when our focus is on other things. Even when we allow ourselves to get distracted and interrupted along the way. But commitment requires both specific focus – such as blocking out distracting thoughts and other interruptions during our daily Bible time – as well as general focus – remembering to read each day and sticking to a schedule or reading plan. We can’t allow the little things to distract us from our goal at any time. For instance, if you’ve ever been on a diet, you know how hard you have to focus on that goal of eating right during birthday parties, church fellowships, coffee dates, and even late night snacks. You can’t let anything distract you from sticking to your plan… and it’s the same with spiritual growth.
4. Commitment requires hard work. Here’s another no-brainer. Think of any commitment you’ve made in recent years – could be a job, a relationship, a hobby, a learning endeavor, anything at all. Now imagine you never spent any time on it. Never reported into work, never talked with the person you’re building a friendship with, never took lessons or learned how to do that hobby, never read a book or showed up to a class… would you get anywhere? Of course not! Why do we think spiritual growth is any different? We must work hard at growing spiritually. It doesn’t happen overnight, just like we don’t lose 20 pounds all in one day. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes work! And along those lines….
5. Commitment requires persistence. Just like the runner will never finish his marathon if he doesn’t keep running, and the dieter will never lose weight if she doesn’t keep saying no, we will never grow spiritually if we don’t keep working at it on a daily basis. We can’t give up, throw in the towel, ignore it, or pretend it doesn’t exist. We have to stick with our commitment if we want to reach our goal. If we want to be more Christlike, then we have to be faithful and devoted to working at it every single day. If we want to begin a ministry of intercession, we have to discipline ourselves and practice it daily. If we want to read our Bibles daily, we have to do it daily! We need stick-to-it-iveness! And of course, in the realm of spiritual growth, that will come only through the power of God and the control of His Spirit.
We can do nothing in our own strength, but all things through Him who strengthens us. He is the One who teaches us as we turn to Him and grants us wisdom and understanding. He is the One who gives us the strength and desire to follow Him. He is the One who must capture our attention, the One whose approval we strive for. He is the One through whom we live and move and work. He is the One who must control us, our desires and our thoughts and our plans.
So… what are you committed to?
Do you understand what it is you’re attempting to do? Do you truly desire it as you should? Are you focused on the goal at all times? Do you put your heart and soul into pursuing that goal? Are you faithful, consistent, diligent to it?
Are you truly committed to growing in Christ? Are you committed to loving God with all your being and your neighbor as yourself? If not, why not?
Photo courtesy of stock.xchang.