“Take time and trouble to keep yourself spiritually fit. Bodily fitness has limited value, but spiritual fitness is of unlimited value, for it holds promise both for this present life and for the life to come.” -1 Tim 4:7-8
Take a moment and think about who the person closest to you in life is. Is it your best friend? Your mom or dad? Your spouse or significant other? Who in your life could you not go a day without talking to? Now take a second and think about what your relationship with them would look like if you went a month without talking to them or spending time with them. What about if you and your significant other never went on a date just the two of you, but only ever hung out in a group setting? Your relationship with them would look so different than it does now! In our human relationships and connections we see the importance of communication and quality time to make that relationship go deep and last long. Now, let’s turn the table: what does your relationship with Jesus look like? Can you see the correlation between how often you spend time with Him and how you feel like your relationship with Him is going? When dating someone, or when walking through a close friendship, when it comes time to “weather a storm,” we are shown our relationship’s true colors. Similarly in our relationship with Jesus, when seasons of transition come out of nowhere, or we’re faced with bad news that cripples us and tests our faith, we are often shown just how close to or far from God we are. What do we do to prepare for those storms, though? If you are a follower of Jesus, you have experienced the love of Christ and have entered into an eternity-long relationship with Him. We know that it’s important to spend time with Him, but honestly it just feels so different than spending time with a person face-to-face. Sometimes it can be tough to actively live out our faith as a response to the love of Christ, when the way we pursue relationships in the world feels so different than the way we are taught to pursue a relationship with Jesus. We echo the sentiment of the father who cried out to Jesus: Lord, I believe; help me with my unbelief! (Mark 9:23-25) Jesus, we love you but sometimes we just don’t know how to love You. Now is the time to take inventory of what kinds of intentional “dates” and conversations we are having with Jesus, so that we can grow in spiritual discipline, not just in preparation for future seasons of hardship, but for right now - for our spiritual joy and fulfillment in the Giver of life in abundance.
Here are a few (of many) ways that Scripture shows us how to love God and actively pursue our relationship with Him: PRAYER Of all the spiritual disciplines, prayer can be the most difficult. Think about how important communication is in any relationship: if you don’t talk, you don’t know each other and you don’t feel comfortable with each other. The same is true for prayer and our relationship with God. If you’re new to prayer, or a seasoned believer learning anew the importance of prayer in your daily life, God loves it when you talk to Him! Even if it feels awkward or forced, He delights in His children coming to Him with their praise & pleads. Scripture promises us that “the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to Him” (Deuteronomy 4:7). BEING IN & MEMORIZING THE WORD Scripture is our ultimate tool against the enemy. When he whispers lies into our ears, we must know the truth to combat it. Spending time in the Word, studying it, “hiding it” in our hearts (Psalm 119:11) is a spiritual discipline that will encourage us not just for the present, but equip us for the future. In one of Jesus’ final prayers before the cross, He asks the Father, “Sanctify them by truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). In a world filled with lies, shortcuts and shallow advice, we must equip ourselves with the truth, direction, and wisdom that the Word never fails to give. COMMUNITY/ACCOUNTABILITY Something that sets our relationship with Jesus apart from our relationship with other people is the aspect of the Church. Scripture tells us that when we welcome the Holy Spirit into our hearts, we become a part of a global family of believers. We take on the privilege of being representatives or “ambassadors” for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). With that comes the joy of meeting with other believers so that we can encourage and uplift one another, point one another to truth, and hold each other accountable in our individual journeys to become more like Jesus. Meeting together gives believers the opportunity to actively participate in what Scripture calls the “body of Christ,” and we experienced the living, breathing, moving Body when we suffer together, rejoice together and seek unity together (1 Corinthians 12:25-27). A really great way to get plugged into a community/local body of Christ is to join a Lane of Roses Bible study! If you aren’t near a local LOR study, reach out to your church and see what opportunities they have available. Those are just a few spiritual disciplines that will, when practiced regularly, bolster your relationship with the Lord, equip you with Truth in the face of uncertainty, and show you what it looks like to walk out your faith amongst other believers. A few others worth studying are fasting, tithing, worship, and service - amongst many others!
It won’t always be easy or simple. A relationship with Jesus isn’t as quick and painless as a Get-Fixed-Quick guide, but what will change everything is a genuine desire to grow closer to God because of the unsurpassed goodness you have seen in Him. He is pursuing you already, and He is worth the effort to teach and train your heart to receive His love and hear from Him more readily. Reflection
1. What are some spiritual disciplines you are or have been committed to? Reflect on seasons that you have been consistently in the Word, or in prayer, or a time you were in a Bible study full of people that just “got you.” What blessings came from that? How did your relationship with the Lord flourish in that season?
2. What are some spiritual disciplines you need to grow in? What are some ways you can see your relationship with God differing in this season compared to others? How do you think those connect to one another?
3. My challenge for you is this: pick one spiritual discipline that you recognize you need to grow in or that you would like to learn more about. Commit to practicing that discipline for the next 2 weeks. Journal at the start of the two weeks, outlining where you feel like your relationship with God is at now, and write down a prayer asking God to help you grow in the areas you recognize you’re struggling. Then at the end of the two weeks, go back to that prayer and see how God answered it. Because He will! Prayer Father, thank You for the way You pursue me. Your love and kindness is what drew me to You in the first place, and I take this moment to remember the way You have shown me what true love looks like. Father, I love You, but sometimes I just don’t know how to love You. As I seek to grow in the disciplines of spending time with You, I trust that You will meet me there. I trust that You are with me when I pray, that You are teaching and equipping me through Your Word, and that You desire me to enter into a community that will encourage me and show me Jesus when I’m having a hard time seeing Him for myself. Thank You for Your goodness, for Your presence, and for Your Spirit living inside me, calling me to draw closer to You every day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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