Bible reading, Prayer, Scripture memorization, Bible studies, devotions, journaling and the like are all things we need to be doing. We hear it constantly from the spiritual among us that without building these habits into our lives we cannot grow in the way God wants us to as believers. I hear others constantly tout their favorite Bible reading plan, boast about how much Scripture they have memorized or muse about the day they are going to publish the journal they have kept faithfully for the last 18 years without missing a day.
Does it take pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps to ensure God can “use us”? Do we have to do things we do not like or be people that we aren’t so that God can use us?
I don’t think so.
After all, Scripture is full of stories of the lives of people who were anything but perfect. Look at Abraham, lying to save his own skin. David a man after God’s own heart, but also an (albeit forgiven) adulterer. Peter, who denied Jesus three times, still couldn’t stay out of trouble after Jesus was gone requiring Paul to confront him about his behavior. And Paul. What about Paul who got in such a fight with Barnabas that the two of them split up and went their separate ways?
Scripture is replete with examples of people who were weak and failed to live up to the “standard” quite often. The gospel itself is for people who can’t live up to the “standard”.
Of course the people who speak to us about the spiritual disciplines are, often times, the same folk who tell us that God is Sovereign over everything, which would include our spiritual growth. If God is really sovereign, then can He not bring circumstances into our lives that cause us to grow the way He wants us to without being perfectionists in our practices of the spiritual disciplines?
Sure He can.
Still, there is room for the case to be made that the spiritual disciplines are helpful and are things that we should pursue. We should read our Bibles, get involved in community, memorize Scripture, pray. These are things that are commanded of us for one thing and they may prevent God from having to use other methods to grow us.
Yet, as is so often done, we have a great tendency to hold these things over each other and use them at best, as measures of our spirituality or at worst, as weapons against each other.
You didn’t get through the whole Bible this year in your Bible reading plan? You only memorized 25 Bible verses this week? You wrote only eleven journal entries (eight of which were about how much you hate journaling) last year? Didn’t you know that so and so got through their whole Bible and they still had time to memorize the whole book of John? After all Jesus has done for you and you couldn’t even get through Genesis in your reading plan?
Feel guilty? You might. But you shouldn’t.
None of these disciplines were ever intended to be used as weapons by others or ourselves to make us feel guilty. Sanctification is a process and that process includes failure. And I’ll tell you something else… I suspect that fully 50% or more of the people who say they do all these things are probably ready to sell you some swamp land in the Everglades. They want you to buy into the games they play and buy their worthless swamp too. A friend of mine calls them the “evangelical jet set and theological sophisticates who look down their noses at those of us who are spiritual mortals.”
The question isn’t should we do these things, but is rather, how are we to engage them in a way that leaves room for grace to work in our lives when we do not do them perfectly. And even more important, what is the best form of motivation for doing them?
Over the course of the next few days (or weeks) I’d like to explore these issues in a series I’ve decided to call “Spiritual Disciplines for Slackers.”
Hope you will stick around and join me.
Question: What Spiritual Disciplines do you do? Why do you do them? Have you tried and failed?