Last week at my church I had the joy of preaching and introducing our August preaching series called 'The Soul Shift Series'. Click here to take a listen, and without merely repeating myself, here's a brief rundown of the message as well as the direction we are heading in over the coming month.
“It's not about TRYING. It's about TRAINING.”
So many of us try new things all the time, attempt things in life in order to better ourselves and improve our lives, and the lives of those around us – such as health, ideas at work, parenting and marriage tips, tricks and advice. But for various reasons, we often find ourselves failing, and then giving up. They rarely become part of our daily life, and they rarely become habits that are integrated in our lives. This is no different with Spiritual Disciplines. We may often be encouraged to read the bible, pray, have times of solitude and silence to seek God. But so often we try them out, they don't go how we thought they were going to go, and we give up. Why is that?
There are plenty of reasons most like, but I can think of a couple:
1. Comparison. We compare ourselves to others. “Look at how great they are“, “everyone else seems to find this so easy, but I'm useless at it.“, “I'll never be as good at them.” Comparison will be the death of us if we give it space. Check out Zeddie Little's picture (aka Mr Ridiculously Photogenic) at the end of his 10km race the other year. When I went for a run once I compared my terrible experience with the look of his. It didn't help!
2. We measure success on the wrong thing. So many of us assume when we try things, we'll be excellent at them straight away, and will see the benefit immediately, and when we don't experience that, we give up easily. Also, with Spiritual Disciplines we often think that the act itself of reading the bible, of prayer, or time alone with God is the goal. It's not. The Spiritual Disciplines are the tool for getting closer to God. The goal is ultimately to know God more deeply, to draw close to a Him, to develop a relationship with Him. Get the measure of what success is wrong, and you're bound to think of yourself as a failure or think that you are not hitting the mark somehow.
There is clearly something wrong with 'trying', the striving, the comparison, the attempting, the one-off 'giving a bash' style of attempting spiritual disciplines. The Bible helps us out. The Bible doesn't talk about trying, but about training. Ultimately, if you were asked to run a marathon, you wouldn't just turn up on the day and try, you'd need to train.
It's tough though. And there are various obstacles that we put in the way, and other obstacles that we face in our world/culture today when trying to train. I think of 3 words that we live our lives by:
- Fast (we live our lives very fast paced, and very 'full' and busy).
- Public (we are encouraged to 'share' in our lives. In many ways, some of this good, but it can drastically contrast with the idea of developing a private relationship with God).
- Self-centred (the idea that we feel that we don't need God to get through our days). The upcoming weeks at church in Kerith will look at these in more detail.
Let's remember that God is a God of grace and love. It's not about trying to do, say or be the perfect person. This is about training in godliness. Training to be more like Christ. We are not in it to please people, or please ourselves, or please God. Remember that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. Thank goodness for that eh?
Personally, I can't wait to hear the next 3 speakers over the next 3 weeks at church. It'll be epic.