Devotion meets Discipline (part 1)
Are you currently in a wonderful relationship with God, where everything is fitting nicely into your schedule? A wonderful, comfortable relationship in which you devote some time when you feel like it (that is after work, and facebook, and exercise, and gossip and a few episodes of Game of Thrones) and do Biblestudy at your convenience (around 10 mins a day using some chic and happening bible-app, or by following Tim Keller's tweets...)? Does your prayer life involve a few absent-minded mumblings to God per day; allowing you to feel like your quota has been filled? Or how about your thoughts of God- does He tend to flood your mind when you find yourself in need of impromptu cosmic damage control? Maybe none of these apply to you, but your relationship with God is simply very haphazard, although fulfilling, and can use a bit more structure and consistency.
At times like these, it may be worthwhile to take a step back and analyze whether your devotion needs to be paired with some discipline. Our relationship with God as Christians is one motivated by the love He has first shown us, and God has given us His commandments as summed up in Matthew 22:37:
We would all know that loving in such a complete, all encompassing way is not always a natural outflow. It is a state that must be carefully and deliberately cultivated; just as we would expect in any other area of our lives. You will not give you entire heart, soul and mind to something or someONE to which you do not deliberately and systematically give the choicest portion of your time, efforts, interests and affections. It is amazing when our relationship with God is organic and effortless, but it often takes some initial structure to create a framework that nurtures an organic relationship. As unromantic and unEASY as it sounds, discipline is often required to cultivate love. Discipline + Devotion = the Destiny of all those who claim to follow Christ.
Consider adding the following 3 disciplines to your daily Christian walk:
The Discipline of Prayer:
In a recent personal Bible study, the Lord blew my mind when He showed me the meaning of the Greek word for "prayer". The greek word "proseuchomai" means : to exchange wishes. Namely, we exchange our wishes for His wishes for our situation and life. Jesus gave a perfect example of this in his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane when He said " Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me...Nevertheless, not my will but Your will be done". We must get into the practice of surrendering our wishes for our lives and situations to God, and accepting within our hearts His wishes for us through the practice of prayer.
The Discipline of going into the secret place:
This point is linked to the discipline of prayer. Matthew 6:6 references the need for Christians to go into a secluded place to seek God. Especially in the modern day where distractions are rampant and we are constantly being overstimulated by the demands and trappings of everyday life, we need to designate for ourselves a "secret place" to meet God. I use the word "designate" very intentionally, because creating focus and quiet for the purpose of seeking God is an intentional act that must be built into our daily practice.
The Discipline of Reading God's Word:
Psalm 1:2 and Joshua 1:8 reference the idea of " meditating on God's Word day and night. Meditation literally speaks of muttering to oneself, or revising in one's mind. How can we revise what we never read? Or how can we meditate on what we have never heard? In order to meditate on God's Word day and night we must be in the practice of reading His Word on a regular basis. The influx of God's Word in our lives must be fresh and continuous. This takes discipline. It's amazing how we find time to read the newspapers, business articles, the Late O' Clock News, magazines, professional and educational texts, but yet we struggle to dedicate time to read our Bibles. This is a discipline that must be developed.
Surely discipline and disciple have the same root. Structuring your spiritual life sometimes seems contrived or uncomfortable, but it could be a valuable way to create new and more productive spiritual habits.