Wednesday, July 3, 2013

No Sudden Spiritual Maturity

The past several months I have not been very consistent with reading my Bible (this is probably part of the reason why you’ve seen a lack of spiritual growth related posts on the blog lately!). I started out the beginning of the year well doing a daily Bible reading plan through the YouVersion App, but by the Spring my discipline had become lax.  I know we are over half way through the year now and this is not typically the time people make commitments to read their Bible, but I’ve wasted enough time. I’m not going to wait another 5 months till 2014 to get back on track with reading the Word of God! 

Reading the Bible consistently is something I have struggled with for most of my Christian life, to be honest. I do well for a while reading regularly and then I get in a rut of only opening my Bible at church and sporadically at home. I go back and forth in this pattern and it is easy to get discouraged and feel defeated. Sometimes I feel like I’m so far behind on my “Bible Reading Plan” that I don’t remember what I read last. So rather than pick up the Psalms, for example, and at least read something; I read nothing. 

The last 18 months have been particularly hard for me to consistently read the Bible. We have prayed (and so many other people have prayed for us) and tried so many treatments, yet I continue to have debilitating pain, and I think in some ways this has made me apathetic to prayer and reading God’s word. I can make excuses, but it boils down to the fact that I am spiritually lazy and I love the things of this world way too much. I often find time to do the things I want to do, but spending time in God’s word can too easily be pushed to the back burner.  

Our pastor read a quote from Amy Carmichael a few Sundays ago that I found encouraging: 

“Sometimes when we read the words of those who have been more than conquerors, we feel almost despondent. I feel that I shall never be like that. But they won through step by step by little bits of wills little denials of self, little inward victories by faithfulness in very little things. They became what they are. No one sees these little hidden steps. They only see the accomplishment, but even so, those small steps were taken. There is no sudden triumph no spiritual maturity. That is the work of the moment.” – Amy Carmichael, Holy Sweat (1987) p. 130

Virtually nothing in life that is of any true worth comes instantaneously. And so it is with spiritual growth – there is no sudden spiritual maturity. It is a moment by moment work of denying self and choosing to be faithful in the small things when no one is watching.
This is hard to do. Some days it’s difficult to turn off the T.V. or the Internet browser and pick up the Bible. It doesn’t always seem fun to spend your free time memorizing scripture instead of taking a nap or enjoying a hobby. But it is the most important thing we can do – spend time with God. And by his grace, through the work of the Holy Spirit, it is possible to have those little victories.

But as with most things, we must have a plan or goals in order to ensure we follow through with our intentions. We can commit to reading our Bible daily, but if we don’t know how we are going to do it, it probably will not happen, at least not consistently. And this is my struggle – having a plan and being disciplined to follow through with it.

So what are some small steps we can take to ensure we read the Bible regularly and hide God’s word in our hearts?

1.   Seek out accountability and encouragement. The best thing we can do when spiritually struggling (after seeking the Lord for help) is find another Christian to walk along beside us. It is not easy to admit we are not reading the Bible, but we are more likely to succeed if someone asks us weekly what passage of scripture most convicted or encouraged us and if they are praying for us regularly.

2.   Make a Plan. Just like one doesn’t lose weight by saying they are going to exercise, we need to plan out how and when we will read the Bible. Otherwise, we will push snooze when the alarm goes off. And if you haven’t read consistently in a while, don’t jump to a “read the Bible in a year plan” but rather be faithful to read one chapter or part of a chapter a day. And as you are faithful in that, ask God to give you the grace to set higher goals.

3.   Don’t give up if temptation wins. There will be days of failure. Remember, it is little steps, small victories. If you watch T.V. late one night or need an extra hour of sleep some mornings due to your chronic illness and can’t read the Bible as planned, don’t give up reading altogether. Rather focus on the goal – to know God more. And pick up where you left off, tomorrow.

4.   The goal is not just to know about God, but rather to know God. I struggle with this A LOT. I am an intellectual thinker and I enjoy studying theology. So I often read the Bible for facts or knowledge rather than to grow closer to God. Theology is important, but coming to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength should be our aim.

5.   Pray, Pray, Pray! We can make a plan, have accountability partner, and do all the “right things” but unless God is the one guiding our efforts, we will ultimately fail. Prayer is a discipline just like reading the Bible (I probably need to devote a whole other post to this!) and maybe you struggle with this as well. If so, don’t get discouraged. Start small – five minutes even, especially if you are not currently praying regularly. Then as you seek God through His word and become more disciplined, pray a little more and in time (by God’s grace) prayer will become easier.

Do you struggle to consistently read the Bible? I hope to share some of my personal struggles in the days to come and my new plan as I try to seek God through reading and memorizing His word. If you like to use social media, you can sign up on my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter for new blog updates!

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