Spiritual Disciplines

As Christians, we are commanded to grow in the Lord. Here are some of the spiritual disciplines which we can put into practice in our daily living.

“The greatest difficulty in conversion is to win the heart to God, and the greatest difficulty after conversion is to keep the heart with God” –Jeremy Walker, Life in Christ.

Isn’t it true? Before we became Christians, we gave our heart to God. And after we become Christian, it is our duty to keep our heart with God or else we will be distracted and stray away.  

We should always strive to be growing spiritually. Apostle Paul said to the Thessalonians: “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).

“Make every effort to…be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14). It is important to make every effort, strive to grow towards holiness because it is only through holiness, we can see the Lord.

Apostle Peter also wrote, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

As the apostles urged the Christians, it is important and necessary to grow. We can not remain stagnant forever, or worse, to go backwards. When we plant a seed, we expect growth. We expect the seed to sprout, and that it will grow into a plant and eventually bear fruits that we can enjoy.

When we have a baby, we want to see the baby grow day by day. It is very worrying if the child does not grow. There will be sleepless nights of worry, going to hospital for check-ups to find the reason why. Similarly, it is worrying if we do not grow spiritually. 

In the letter to Hebrews, the original audience were the Jews who believed in Jesus. They did not grow spiritually. Instead of growing, they go backwards. They were at the danger of falling away from the faith.

 “11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:11-14)

These Christians were no longer trying to understand God’s Word. Were they callous? The fact is, they had become lazy. Their ears had become dull. We see this same word in Hebrews 6:11-12, which is used to describe sluggish. They had become lazy in hearing God’s Word, sluggish in their relationship with God.  

These Christians should have been matured enough to be teachers already. They were supposed to be teachers of God’s Word. Yet, they were regressing to the point of having to go back to the elementary school again. They needed someone to teach them about the basic truth of God all over again. At one point, they were able to enjoy steak: a thick, rich, flavourful steak but they went so backwards to drinking milk again.

How do we know if spiritual growth is happening in our lives?

As important as it is to grow spiritually, growth is in God’s Hands. Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians regarding this matter. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” Apostle Paul planted the seed, Apollos watered it. God was the one who provided sunlight and water to make the seeds growth but nonetheless, Paul and Apollos still worked hard and diligently in their respective tasks. God gave the growth but we have to do our part to grow spiritually.  

Our growth is in God’s timing. Will we still be diligent in taking care of our spiritual growth? We cultivate spiritual disciplines because our end goal is not just the growth, but our end goal is to know God better and to love Him deeper. 

Richard of Chichester (1197-1253), wrote this prayer called “Day by Day”:

Thanks be to thee,

my Lord Jesus Christ,

for all the benefits which

thou hast given me,

for all the pains and insults

which thou hast borne for me.

O most merciful Redeemer,

Friend and Brother,

may I know thee more clearly,

love thee more dearly,

and follow thee more nearly.

Amen.

It is St Richard’s prayer to see God more clearly day by day. Love God more dearly day by day. Follow God more nearly day by day. There will be ups and downs in our life but may this be our prayer too: that we strive to see God, love Him more and follow God ever closely day by day.

Spiritual disciplines is important so that we can grow spiritually. John Wesley our Methodist spiritual forefather, set the example for us. Below are some of the spiritual disciplines he practiced:

Meditation

John Wesley meditated. He read the Bible first and meditated on what he had just read. John Wesley meditated a lot and out of these came his doctrinal and spiritual teachings. The purpose of meditation is to hear God clearly and then we obey Him. When we meditate, we invite the Holy Spirit to illumine us so that we can understand and obey God’s Word.   

Prayer

John Wesley was one of those who spent a few hours on his knees in prayers. He said prayers should include “public prayer, family prayer, and praying in our closet”. His directions for prayers? “Tell Him simply all you fear, all you feel, all you want…. Pour out your soul and freely talk to God…. Pray just as you are led…. in all simplicity.” Wesley urged the people to pray written prayers in the Bible as well as using the written prayers in “The Book of Common Prayer”. He prayed 4 hours a day and before his death, 8 hours a day in prayers.

Fasting

Fasting is to abstain from food or certain pleasures for a period of time to seek God’s face. Wesley fasted 2 times a week. For us who are not able to fast because of health reasons, we can also fast from things that distract us: social media, entertainment, shopping sprees and so on. The purpose of fasting is so that we can whole heartedly seek God. 

 Giving

It was said that John Wesley gave away 80% of his income to help the poor. Though he had good income from his writings, he still lived on 28 pounds per year, just as he had in his student days. He gave away the rest of his money to the widows, the orphans. He also built orphanages to care of the orphans.

Worship

Worship is important for our spiritual growth. We should make it a priority to worship God, especially on Sunday—the Lord’s Day. Each worship service is an encounter with God: we gather together with other believers to adore Him, praise Him, confess our sins, listen to His Word and be refreshed to enter into the world once again. Even at times when we do not feel like worshipping God, we can tell God how we feel and ask for His grace to help us to worship Him. Being together with other believers will help to encourage our faith. 

These spiritual disciplines help us to grow spiritually and enable us to reject the things that are not beneficial for our souls. May God give us the grace and the wisdom to grow in Him day by day.   

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