Spiritual Disciplines or Spiritual Privileges?
Knowing information about God and knowing Him are two very different things. When I went away to Bible college, I was excited about all the information I would learn about God. I thought this meant my faith was going to grow exponentially during my time there. However, it didn’t take long for the Bible to become just another one of my textbooks. I used it for classes or when I had to write a paper, and that was about it. There was the occasional time where I felt guilty for not spending time with the Lord, so I pulled it out, but it quickly became just another textbook again. I was gaining head knowledge about God, but there wasn’t a lot of heart change.
Do you resonate with my story? Many of us have heard of the importance of spiritual disciplines and probably would even say they are good, but when it comes time to actually doing them, they often feel mundane. We long for spiritual disciplines to provide the excitement that we hear other brothers and sisters in Christ experience as they participate in them. When that doesn’t come as we expect, often, we stop altogether. I think so many of us struggle with spiritual disciplines because we view them as disciplines. In other words, we have to check off the box that we did them and move on with our day. We want our quick fix of God so we can move on to what we really want to do. Is this what your time in God’s Word feels like? What about your prayer life? Or when you meditate on God’s Word? Or if you fast? These are just a few examples of spiritual disciplines, but I bet most people would say they have experienced trouble doing these things before — I know I certainly have.
Have you ever wondered why these things can feel so mundane? In my opinion, it’s because we have failed to see spiritual disciplines as the spiritual privileges they really are. Instead of recognizing them as for our joy, we see them as obstacles we have to get through. Now admittedly, identifying the problem is much easier than fixing it. The best way to begin implementing spiritual disciplines into our lives is by recognizing that everything we do is spiritual in nature. Colossians 3:17 says,
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Imagine what it would look like to actually take this to heart. What would happen if when we go to work, we view it as an opportunity to serve Christ? Or when we do our homework, it’s for the glory of God? Or if when we engage with difficult people, we showed them love because of how God loves us? Believe it or not, these are spiritual disciplines as well. If we were to start seeing everything we do as an opportunity to worship God well, I think we’ll begin to see spiritual disciplines as privileges instead. As a result, things like spending time in God’s Word, prayer, meditation, taking a Sabbath to rest and reflect on God, fasting from food to focus our attention on God, etc., will become more lifegiving than they currently are.
Once this transition occurs, this doesn’t mean spiritual disciplines won’t be mundane from time to time. I believe God’s grace is evident in allowing for spiritual disciplines to become mundane. When we experience the joy of these privileges and disciplines, it can become easy to worship those things rather than God. The thing is, spiritual disciplines should aid our worship of God, not become the object of our worship. However, when things become mundane, that doesn’t mean we should stop engaging in spiritual disciplines. We should continue in them even more. Why? It’s because they help us worship God, and He’s faithful to work in our lives through them even when it doesn’t feel like it. Colossians 3:1–3 says,
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
These verses provide incredible insight into why we should participate in spiritual disciplines. It’s because of the work God’s done in our hearts in raising us with Christ that these should be a regular part of our lives. Spiritual disciplines are seeking the things that are above. It’s because of the identities we have been given in Christ that we are to pursue spiritual disciplines, not to try to make ourselves look good before God. God has accepted us through faith in Christ and given us these disciplines as privileges to help us joyfully worship Him. Engaging in spiritual disciplines doesn’t earn God’s acceptance, it’s freely given to us through faith in Christ! When we realize this, we see the beauty of being hidden with Christ or having an identity found in Him. When we engage well in spiritual disciplines, we come to understand the very heart of God rather than just gaining head knowledge about Him.
When we engage well in spiritual disciplines, we come to understand the very heart of God rather than just gaining head knowledge about Him
It was my senior year in Bible college when I realized I needed to take spiritual disciplines more seriously. Even today, I am still growing in applying them — and hopefully, I always will be growing in this! It’s by God’s grace that I’m not where I used to be with spiritual disciplines, but that doesn’t mean I’m perfect at them because I’m not. I still experience times where it’s difficult to come before the Lord and practice spiritual disciplines. It’s in these moments where I try to remind myself that God is still at work even when it doesn’t feel like it. If you are experiencing a mundane season with spiritual disciplines in your life, take heart, keep seeking the things that are above, and remember that God is still at work — because He is!