Happy Wednesday! Can you believe we have made it through the first few days of the new year? Here we are starting the first full week of 2019.
Last week when I shared my goals for 2019 the first area I mentioned one of the main areas I need to focus on this year is developing my Spiritual Disciplines. You would think that considering I just graduated from Seminary I would have this area of my life on lock, but the truth of the matter is Seminary the exact place where Spiritual Disciplines seem to get hit the hardest. From reading 3 to 6 books per class and taking between 2 and 4 classes a semester often times really reading the Bible, focusing on prayer, and deep memorization of Scripture fall on the back burner.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of study of the Bible. I mean of course there is considering the Bible is the foundation of ALL of the courses taken here. But I would be lying if I said that there were times that I found my Scripture reading as a box I checked off on my to do list each day rather than something I truly looked forward to for the benefit and growth it would bring me.
That leads me to now with the need and desire to take the tools I was given during my time in classes and put them into practice in my day to day life. So the question is this then: What are Spiritual Disciplines?
Defining Spiritual Disciplines
One of the books that I had the pleasure of reading was written by a man named Donald S. Whitney called Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. In this book Whitney describes Spiritual Disciplines as:
those practices found in Scripture
that promote spiritual growth among believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ
These are things such as Bible reading, prayer, fasting, Scripture memory and meditation, and corporate worship. While there are more aspects to the Spiritual Disciplines, these are the areas I will be focusing on. So lets break this down:
For as long as I can remember I have always heard the Bible being described as: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. This acronym has always held a special reminder for me that the only way anyone gets better at anything is by following the instructions. For example, people will have a better chance of ending with a tasty meal if they follow the instructions that are given. The Bible holds all the instructions we could need for daily life and the best way (and really the only way) to navigate life. And the only way to know what those instructions are is to read it consistently.
Some people out there will lay out Bible reading methods that they claim are the best way to read and meditate on Scripture. I, however, will not be one of those people because I don’t think there is one tried and true silver bullet when it comes to Scripture reading. There are as many methods as there are people in the world so the suggestion I will give you is this: Do your research. Find out what methods and ways are out there and then test them out until you find what works best for you. This may mean you find one person’s method and never deviate from that but it could also mean that you take several options and meld them together to find a fun fit for you. Ultimately, the best thing I can tell you is just read your Bible. Soak in God’s word in whatever way you can that helps you to really internalize and prioritize the words on the pages.
If the Bible is how God is talking to us then prayer is most often seen as how we talk to God. There are numerous scriptures that point out the importance of prayer, how to pray, and methods of prayer. Thessalonians reminds us that we are to be praying continually (1 Thess. 5:17) and Philippians says that we are to make our requests known to God with thanksgiving. (Phil. 4:6) However, James reminds us that we have to have our motives in the right place if we are going to see God respond. (James 4:3)
As with Scripture reading there are any number of ways that you can have those conversations with God. Some will say you have to go into your private prayer “closet” and have your quiet prayer time with God there and then you are done. Still others tell you that it doesn’t matter where or when just as long as you are talking to your creator. I will be honest and say I fall in the latter camp. There are times when you really just have to stop and pray and pour it all out to God before you can move on to the next item on your list. God is listening. He just wants to be in communication with us. Take the time to really talk with God each day.
I will be honest, this is one area that I struggle in the most. I just have such a hard time slowing my mind down long enough to memorize Scriptures verse by verse. You would think that after having several classes with assignments devoted completely to memorizing large passages I would have this part down. The truth of the matter is I don’t. It is something I am still working on.
Psalm 119:11 reminds us that we are to “Hide God’s word in my heart that I may not sin against you” It is important that we take the time to know the truth and to hide it in our hearts and our minds so that when we truly need to combat the false teachings in the world we have the ammo that will be needed. Jesus relied on his memory of Scripture to combat the lies presented to him while he was being tempted in the desert. If Jesus needed to rely on Scripture memory shouldn’t we also?
So how can we memorize Scripture then? First of all it requires being intentional. There a number of ways that you can go about the process of memorizing but the one thing I do know needs to be done is to always keep it in the forefront of you mind. Placing note cards with Scriptures written out on them around where you will see them often is one way that can help you.
This is one that sometimes people feel they can neglect but Scripture is clear that we are not to forsake the fellowship of other believers.(Hebrews 10:25) We are to get together regularly to worship, uplift, encourage, and pray for and with one another. This world is a dark and troubling place. When we decide to neglect our time in corporate worship we are saying that we can handle this life on our own when God has clearly indicated we are designed for community and fellowship. We need the community to continue to support us through our participation in corporate worship. The best way to do this is to find a local church and get involved. Everyone can use their gifts in some way or another and no church is going to turn away people who are serious about getting involved and serving and following Christ.
The Spiritual disciplines are an important part of the Christian’s life. No matter how long a person has been following Jesus these are areas that should always be evaluated, tweaked, and developed. Much like exercise and eating right is necessary for a healthy body, strong Spiritual disciplines are necessary for a strong walk and relationship with God.