As the new year begins, many Christians throughout the world are in the first few weeks of their new Bible reading plans and are already struggling to keep up. They desire to become more like Jesus and obey His Word, but they are confronted with the reality that this journey is difficult. It’s not easy to wake up each morning and choose to spend it reading a book written thousands of years ago, but there is rest and comfort in the Word of our God. Over the past two and a half years, I have studied spiritual disciplines and Christian formation with the goal of helping Christians experience consistency in their walk with God.
What are Spiritual Disciplines?
If the word “spiritual disciplines” is new to you, these are simply practices that we, as Christians, commit to in order to grow spiritually. This can include Scripture reading, prayer, fasting, service, and many other practices that are ultimately about growing in our affection for the Lord. Oftentimes, these practices are done begrudgingly and eventually fall out of habit, but these are incredibly important for a healthy spiritual diet.
Why are Spiritual Disciplines Important?
As John Mark Comer puts it, spiritual disciplines are important because they form us to be with Jesus, become like Jesus, and do what Jesus did. They teach us to walk in the grace that we have already received and they fuel one another. For example, in a 2018 article entitled an Introduction to Theology Matters, I argued that a “correct understanding of God’s nature leads to delight in God (rather than merely in the gifts that come from God), which inevitably leads to a correct expression of praise to God, obedience to God’s commands, and a passion for others to ‘glorify God and enjoy him forever.’”
Scripture reading produces joy which leads to worship, personal holiness, and evangelism. When we are depressed, we ought to turn towards God’s Word. When we are anxious, we should run to the Lord in prayer. When we are thankful, we should express our gratitude to God through worship.
Where Do We Start?
Far too many well-meaning Christians commit to spiritual disciplines only to fall away with them after a short time. Typically, they found they were “reading the Bible to check a box” or “praying for the wrong reasons.” Truthfully, I’ve felt these same concerns myself. For much of my high school years, I woke up at the crack of dawn to read my Bible because I knew I should, not because I wanted to grow in my love for Jesus.
Before making a spiritual discipline a part of your daily routine, it is important to establish a scriptural foundation. Scripture is the ultimate guiding light as you navigate practices within the Christian life. For example, the scriptural foundation for the practice of silence and solitude comes from Psalm 37:7 which says,
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!
Defining the Purpose
When I speak of defining the purpose, I am not talking about your specific career or vocation or even the corporate commands that God has given the Church. Instead, I am talking about defining your purpose behind each spiritual discipline you commit to.
You can define your purpose by answering the question, “Why am I committing to this spiritual discipline?” I write each of these out as a clear, concise statement. For example, my purpose statement behind prayer reads,
I commit to cultivating rhythms of prayer because God commands it, it stirs my affections for Jesus, and it is foundational to my walk with God.
Casting the Vision
In addition to defining the purpose behind each spiritual discipline, it is important to cast vision to yourself by answering the question, “How will this spiritual discipline transform me?” When we lack the motivation to complete basic spiritual disciplines, it is often because we lack an understanding of the purpose and vision behind why we are committing to it in the first place. My vision statement for Scripture memory reads,
When I commit to memorizing Scripture, I will understand God’s Word better, carry the words of God into battle each day, and have them ready to share with others.
While there are many spiritual disciplines that should be included in order to cultivate healthy rhythms, I believe all Christians should commit to reading their Bibles, spending time in prayer, fighting for personal holiness, and sharing the gospel with others. These four foundational spiritual disciplines are arguably the most important.