I have had the benefit of a background in competitive athletics where I was taught why and how to prepare for a long season as well as the need for consistent performance. There are reasons why some teams outperform others, one of which is their preparation before the actual game.
When I encountered the person and teachings of Jesus and decided to put my faith, hope, and trust in Him, I learned there were spiritual practices that would help me live a life of faith. Due to a number of coaches who helped me understand the realities and necessities of proper practice leading to consistent performance, my approach to spiritual growth took a similar trajectory.
I have not struggled to think God wanted me to grow just because I was lacking something, or that He was disappointed in me. I did not wrestle with the idea that I was never good enough for a holy God, or that He needed me to be better so He could squeeze more out of me in ministry.
I have come to understand why spiritual disciplines and growth are important. One of the reasons is that I can experience a deeper understanding of God’s love by putting myself in His presence through the use of ancient traditional spiritual practices. I invest my time and energy in my spiritual growth so I can be with God, plain and simple. In sports, the better we practice and are prepared for our opponent, the more relaxed and confident we will perform in the game.
Read Ephesians 3:16-19.
The apostle Paul wrote a great overview of what God has done for all of us in this first century letter to the Christians at Ephesus. He sought to raise the understanding of God’s goodness and grace to men and women. Paul wrote to describe the “what” as well as the “how” of God’s redemptive actions. The first half of the book addresses the doctrinal foundation of what He did and why, and the second half addresses what that could and should look like in the lives of Christ-followers.
I look back at a championship season and remember the mental, physical and emotional exertion it took to practice and perform at a high level. If I desire to experience the goodness of God, I need certain practices to be in play just to be with Him. Here are a few of mine:
First, practice slowing down with Scripture. My parents helped me learn not to stuff myself with food and run from the table to my homework. Eating slowly is healthy for my body and for conversation around the table. Therefore, I like to read large chunks of Scripture and let it saturate my mind. Learn to linger in the Word, meditating on its riches, listening to the Spirit.
Second, practice praying without ceasing. While we should set aside regular time for focused prayer, invite Jesus to walk with you throughout the day as you navigate the realities of life.
Third, practice solitude on a regular basis. How can you build in pockets of time each week or month where you have no agenda? How can you block out time in your calendar to be unavailable to anyone else but God? How can you silence your phone usage each week?
Grow devotionally. Your spiritual growth is worth the investment in yourself. If you are on God’s team, you do not have to earn God’s love but can merely enjoy it. So practice well.
Love is a verb,
©2017 by Mike Olejarz