Spiritual disciplines are simply habits or spiritual practices that can help us grow. There is no official list. The bible gives us lots of examples but doesn’t necessarily label them as disciplines or command us to practice them all. Common spiritual disciplines include things like bible study, prayer, service, worship, solitude, simplicity, silence, journaling and fasting. The goal is never the activity but what the activity is designed to produce, a closer walk with God. The best counsel that I could offer on spiritual disciplines is to practice the ones that help you.
I would like to propose a new spiritual discipline that I have been thinking about and trying to practice for a while. I find it a significant help in learning the lessons that God wants to teach me. I can’t think of a good one word label, so for now, let’s call it the discipline of Staying With a Message. Let me explain and maybe it will make some sense.
As I repeatedly proclaim here, we are called to be learners and much of our Christian practices are focused on learning. We go to church each Sunday and listen to a sermon. If we attend a church with a traditional format, we might hear another message on Sunday night and another on Wednesday night. If not, we might participate in a small group and study another passage of Scripture. We are continually exhorted to daily spend time in God’s Word. That is another block of scripture that we are supposed to digest each day. Throw in a podcast and a blog or two and we are taking in a lot of messages.
In general, I would say that is good. We should saturate our minds with truth. We are constantly bombarded with false messages in our media driven world and lots of truth is the best antidote. However, I wonder how much of this truth we are actually able to internalize and apply to our lives. We rush from one message to the next without giving it a chance to really change us. God gives us his word in order to transform us and make us more like Jesus. The benefit of a message that merely passes through my awareness as I sprint toward the next message is limited.
There is an old pastoral joke about preaching the same sermon each week until the congregation obeys it. I’ve never seen it put in practice. I think attendance would drop off pretty quick, but there is a valuable idea to consider. Maybe, we should stay with a message until we get it. Maybe, we should stay with a message until we do something about it. Maybe, we should stay with a message until it changes us.
Last week, I wrote about waiting, here. Guess what, I am still not good at waiting. I doubt the truth that I shared about waiting made anyone else an instant expert either, but here is what I did. As I continued to be frustrated by the situations in my life that I am waiting on, I went back and reread my blog. I reread the Scriptures on waiting. I looked up some other ones. I prayed through the ideas in that blog again. I stayed with the message. I kept returning to it allowing God the opportunity to drive it deeper into my heart. It helped.
The messages are going to keep coming. The temptation to superficially rush from one to the next will not stop. My encouragement is to be paying attention to what God is saying to you as you listen, read and study. When God places his finger on something in your life, stay with it. Pray and ask God what he is trying to say to you. Read those scriptures and related scriptures again. Think on the message throughout the coming days or even weeks. Talk with others about it. Share what God is teaching you with someone else. However it works for you, stay with the message. You might find that eating a full meal is more helpful than constant snacking.
Try out the spiritual discipline of staying with a message. Let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you.