Life is never calm or comfortable for very long. Hard things come. Chaos runs through our carefully made plans. And… life happens.
And when life happens, when you get so overwhelmed with busyness, it gets harder to keep up with reading God’s Word every day. It gets harder to be at church whenever the doors are open, when you just need time to sit back and breathe. It gets harder to maintain a consistent and meaningful prayer life when you feel confused or discouraged.
Because those things take work. They call for us to flex our puny spiritual muscles — and usually leave us in pain, when we do.
Whether it’s reading or studying the Bible, praying for yourself or others, meeting with your church family — spiritual disciplines are so named because that’s what they are: disciplines.
And we can’t just practice them when we feel like it, when it’s easy. We would never grow as Christians, if we only read our Bible on the easy days. We would never edify other believers, if we only go to church when it’s convenient. We would never know God like we should, if we only pray when we feel like it.
Let me share a real-life example.
Last January, I started following a plan to read through the entire Bible in 2012. There’s been plenty of days when my brain fog was too heavy, or when life was just too busy, and it was really hard to read 3-4 chapters. Thankfully, God enabled me to catch up and keep up with the plan, even with those days.
The thing is — it requires discipline. Because anything that will produce lasting growth in our spiritual lives takes work. tweet this
And it’s going to hurt. Just like working out your physical muscles can hurt – working out your spiritual muscles can be painful, in a way. Because it’s not easy to fight against the natural, fleshly inclination.
We like to emphasize that reading the Bible, or praying for others, or going to church, should not merely be a duty but a delight. And that certainly holds some truth.
But there are days when reading God’s Word doesn’t feel like a delight — but we need to do it anyway. That’s how we grow. That’s how our spiritual muscles get stronger. That’s how we’ll last through the difficult times — by practicing these disciplines, day after day after day.
Consider what Paul told Timothy, his son in the faith, as he wrote about the nuances of living the Christian life:
“Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.
Fight the good fight of the faith.
Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…“
1 Timothy 6:11-12
Notice the action words in those verses: pursue, fight, take hold. Now think of the athletic parallels. Pursuing brings to mind the fierce running that takes place in a race, like a marathon or even a 10K. Fighting makes me think of two heavyweights going at each other in a boxing ring. Taking hold gives me the idea of climbing up a sheer rock face by grasping firmly to a rope, taking hold and hanging on for dear life.
And those things take hard work. They take discipline.
A runner will never win a race if she only runs when it seems easy. A boxer doesn’t improve by working out when he feels like it. An athlete’s muscles won’t develop if she only exercises when it’s convenient.
And there’s the parallel to our faith.
We’re supposed to run as hard as we can towards knowing God and becoming like His Son. We’re supposed to fight as hard as we can against temptation and our fleshly inclinations and the devil’s lies. We’re supposed to hold on as hard as we can to the truth that this world is not our home, we’re just a-passing through.
God calls us to do this hard work. He commands us to train ourselves for godliness. He chooses discipline for us, rather than the easy road that will never enable spiritual growth.
Think about that for a moment… God chooses discipline for His children.
QUESTION: Which of the spiritual disciplines do you struggle with most right now? What obstacles hinder you from being faithful in that area? What can you take to pursue that discipline and fight against your natural, fleshly inclinations?
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