Spiritual Disciplines Aren’t Optional, They’re Medicinal
Like many of you, years ago I read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in school. Shortly into the book, Tom’s cleverness is displayed when he is told to paint his fence as a punishment. The neighborhood boys quickly come along and tease Tom for his bad luck. That’s when he turns the tables and starts talking about how lucky he is to have the opportunity to paint. Within a few minutes, Tom is sitting back, relaxing, as the neighbor boys clamor for an chance to paint.
Through the character of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain makes clear a universal truth: Work is whatever a person is made to do and play is whatever a person gets to do.
Our perspective on something drastically changes whether we strive for or avoid a task. While I hate folding my own laundry, I have no problem sitting with a friend and folding theirs. After dinner dishes are a task I dread but when I’m with a group of friends, the work seems light and easy. When it comes to reading my Bible, praying, and fasting, my task mode, required mode, often kicks in and I simply feel burdened.Men and women have died that I might have the written Word of God, but I too tired or too busy to pick it up in the morning. Click To Tweet
Men and women have died that I might have the written Word of God, but I too tired or too busy to pick it up in the morning. My life is so privileged that I ignore and take for granted one of the greatest privileges I have, my ability to grow in my spiritual walk.
Spiritual disciplines aren’t optional parts of our faith walk. It isn’t a buffet that we get to pick and choose our favorites and ignore the rest. It is all for our benefit and growth. All of it. Even the spiritual vegetables.
As I walk through my days, I need to change my perspective. Just like with healthy eating, I need to find the balance that works for me, and I need to focus on the positive. Fasting, prayer, studying scripture, they are all important parts of my faith. When I neglect any one area, I’m neglecting the gifts God has given to strengthen me.Fasting, prayer, studying scripture, they are all important parts of my faith. When I neglect any one area, I’m neglecting the gifts God has given to strengthen me. Click To Tweet
I grow weary. And I neglect the medicines given to heal my heart. The funny thing about forgetting to bless myself through these practices is that I need it all the more but it is harder and harder to order my life as the days go on. In my weakness, I cry and struggle on in my own will. I act as if I can handle things on my own but I fail and perform poorly over and over again.
But God’s grace is good. Even in my weaknesses, He gently provides an answer. His Holy Spirit convicts me and draws me back to my knees where I see that I am a miserable sinner and Christ is a wonderful savior.
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. – Colossians 2:6-7
We were given Christ as a gift and our growth in His graces is a continuation of that gift. Despite my shortcomings, I am strengthened because of His goodness.
But that doesn’t mean I can neglect my part. Because my part, it’s not actually my own, it is His established way to speak to me, ready for the taking.
I need to change up my mentality daily. While spiritual disciplines are a must, they should also be a want. They are a gift that we have been given, a privilege that many have died for.
But just like my chores, the disciplines of my faith are easiest when lived out in community. When I meet with a friend, open up my Bible, and we share God’s words that have been imprinted on our hearts. While there are some things, like fasting, that are done in private, there is also a case for making them a community event, as in the book of Esther, and sharing time in prayer with each other. When we live out these disciplines in community, we are stronger.
God works mightily through His visible Church. Like the disciplines of our faith, the Church is the hands and feet of Christ in our lives. He uses this to sanctify us and to draw us closer to His heart. So let us not grow weary.