I don’t know about you but I love new school supplies! There is nothing like a new notebook, new pencils, pens, and crisp paper to get me excited. Am I the only one whoever bought highlighters every year and used them maybe the first week of school and then allowed them to fall into the abyss of my school bag? And I could write a whole page on my love of sticky notes! Yes, I was the girl who had to have color coordinating binders and notebooks. Don’t judge!
Angela here again this week. Being a firstborn child, I am a classic type A personality. I like routine, order, and of course the To Do List (as I’ve already confessed in previous blogs). My children seem to function better with routine as well. So, something clicks in all of us around this time of year and we begin to embrace the call of scheduled bedtimes and calendar managing.
Well, with the new month and in honor of all the “Back to School” talk around us this time of year, we are kicking off a few months of discussion about some ways that we can live out and continually grow in our faith. These are tried and true methods that Jesus practiced, encouraged and expected of His followers. Furthermore, men and women have used these for centuries as pathways or conduits of growth in their love and intimacy with God and greater service to those around them. These methods are called Spiritual Disciplines.
Now I know that the word “discipline” can conjure up negative images for you, but let’s be willing to take a closer look at this concept in other areas of our lives. For instance, if you would like to be employed at any job, you must discipline yourself to wake up and show up at the place of business, right? Or, if you would like to become more physically fit, you must discipline yourself to eat healthy and exercise. If you would like to be promoted either in academics or in your career, you discipline yourself to study, learn, work and perform at increased levels to accomplish your goals.
Essentially, discipline means training for improvement and is applicable and also vital in all areas of our lives. However, like I mentioned last week, many people do not apply the same tenacity or determination in disciplining themselves spiritually. We tend to think that we are just too busy with all the other parts of our lives to dedicate time and effort to this area. Yet, this is the most significant and eternal component of our existence!
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
I want to remind you that no one ever begins training for a marathon by running twenty miles! No one ever begins their working career by being named at CEO of the company. No one who can lift huge amounts of weight ever began with 50 pound dumbbells. Likewise, no one ever became a spiritual giant beginning with praying 8 hours a day, fasting 40 days at a time, reading the entire Bible in a week. All of these skills were acquired by daily disciplines of small runs, low level jobs, light weights, and daily habits of prayer and Bible study times.
All of these desires for accomplishment began with a heart that was set on a goal! Last week, we talked about how the heart is the core and central force for every good or bad thing that plays out in our lives.
“For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” Ezra 7:10
Throughout the Bible you will find men and women “setting their heart” to be and do things for the glory of God. The prophet Ezra gives us a great step by step method and introduction to the spiritual disciplines. He first set his heart to study the Word of God. Spiritual growth will rarely happen with a 5 minute a day devotional. We need the Word of God… Nothing else replaces it’s power and authority in our lives. Notice that Ezra “studied” the Bible, not just read or skimmed it. This takes time and we all make time for what we deem important, right?
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
After studying the Bible, Ezra began to practice what the Lord had taught him. This is an invaluable part of our growth in the Christian life. This is where the battle ground is on a spiritual level and we must live out what the Holy Spirit has taught us or our learning is in vain.
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” James 1:22-27
Lastly, Ezra was able to teach what he had learned and lived! You may be saying, “but, I am not a teacher” and I would respond that we are all teachers at some level because others are always watching and you are always influencing others by your life. The question is what lessons are we teaching? Warning: no one ever lives out the Bible perfectly at all times!!! However, when we discipline ourselves to develop daily routines of being in the Word, practicing what we have learned and sharing that insight with others, we will grow exponentially in our faith and encourage others to do the same.
Over the course of the next several months we will be breaking down some of the areas of Spiritual Disciplines. You will want to stay with us and be encouraged by other women who are wrestling and walking these disciplines out day after day, week after week and year after year. The Lord is so gracious to give us ways to grow in our love for Him and our understanding of who He is. We are not left to figure this whole Christianity thing out on our own. Jesus, Himself said,
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” John 14:21
Please know that week after week, we are earnestly praying for your love to grow exponentially for Jesus and His Word. We pray that you personally know Jesus’ love for you and that He continually allows you to be encouraged by us and that He leads you to a local group of His people that you can be taught His Word and serve His Church.
“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” Colossians 1:28-29