Even though the summer Olympics occur every four years, athletes train nonstop in the years between. Think of the rigorous training they undergo, the discipline they have to continually develop and exhibit. There are so many other things they could be doing instead of training: eating junk food, playing video games, lounging around the house. No doubt the temptation to indulge in all of those things is great. But these athletes know that the discipline of training will allow them to compete at the Olympics and possibly take home a medal.
When we place our faith in Christ, we trust that his work on the cross saves us from the penalty of our sins. That is the beginning of our salvation story. But what happens after those first stages of salvation? How do we continually respond to Jesus after we place our faith in him? Many times, we think that we have to show our faith for God in big, monumental acts. However, as is his way, God calls us to respond to him through small, daily acts of faith. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we abandon those habits that draw us away from Jesus and we embrace those that fuel our growth in him. This week, we will discuss our action plan for spiritual growth: adopting spiritual disciplines.
A spiritual discipline is a habit or practice that we participate in to generate spiritual growth in our lives. The Holy Spirit changes our hearts, but these disciplines help us to focus on God and listen to the Holy Spirit.
The most common spiritual disciplines include:
- Fasting (This can be a temporary abstinence from food, television, spending, etc.)
- Rest (Sabbath)
- Meditation (Study of the Scriptures)
Our spiritual training is much more important than athletic training because it possesses eternal value (1 Timothy 4:8). We practice these disciplines, or habits, to expose our weaknesses and build our strength in those areas of frailty. Although spiritual growth should be taken serious- ly, we should remember that our journey in Christ is not about punishing ourselves or being sad that we can no longer indulge in our former habits. Spiritual discipline focuses on what we gain, not on what we lose. We gain Jesus, and that is everything.
When we love God, we are eager to obey him. As John writes, his commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). In fact, his commandments should bring joy to our hearts (Psalm 19:8). The deeper we grow in our relationship with Christ, the more we will desire to look like him. And we begin to look more like him through the practice of the disciplines.