Spiritual disciplines – Part 2

Different personalities find the practise of spiritual disciplines easier than others. Highly organised personalities are comfortable with some disciplines in particular, while others of a more relaxed temperament find those same disciplines difficult. Which group do you identify with?

I first met Peter after a Sunday evening church service where he accepted an invitation to return to our place for supper. Peter recounted that recently he had been hospitalised through a motor bike accident and I could tell through his difficulty in speaking he had suffered some brain injury.  It was also evident he wasn’t a Believer and after sharing the gospel message, he responded to Christ. Some people I have led to Christ have been very bright and obviously gifted, but sadly drift in their walk with the Lord. I wondered how Peter would go, with such a challenging start! However, Peter made slow and yet solid progress in his Christian life as he embraced spiritual disciplines. In time he became a church leader and became a close friend. Let’s model to others good spiritual disciplines. Here are three more.

  • Confession

Although there can be pleasure in sin for a season (Heb 11:25), sin actually is like a cancer. If not dealt with it brings destruction!  Sin is ugly and a holy God cannot tolerate it. Too many Christian workers fail to live holy lives obedient to Jesus Christ. It’s easy to excuse our sin and blame it onto others or our environment. God, however, is loving and kind and is willing to forgive and cleanse as we repent and turn to Him for forgiveness and for the Spirit’s help. Too many kings in the Bible started off well but ended their reign far from God. May that not happen to us in ministry! Things to remember:

  1. We need to name the core of our sin. The Holy Spirit will show us that, if we are willing to see its ugliness. Real repentance empowers us to change. The Spirit brings clear conviction, but Satan brings general condemnation.
  2. Claim 1 John 1:9. See yourself washed clean by Jesus and remember the Lord is ‘full of compassion and mercy’ (James 5:11).
  3. Where appropriate we need to confess our sin to others. (James 5:16) – John Wesley established groups which met twice weekly for prayer, study and confession of sin.
  4. When confronting others with their wrong doing, do so with gentleness and extend grace generously as we also are sinners (James 6:1). 
  • Wilderness wanderings 

These wanderings are the times where God is wanting to do a work of refinement in our lives.

We can’t live without the wilderness. Jesus was led there after his baptism and He also sought it for times of solitude with God. God needs to shape our lives and our suffering and discomfort refine us so that we become dependent upon God for His success and glory, not ours.  

Going through the refiner’s fire is another name for these times. God heats up the furnace and as the gold melts, so the dross is removed. Once the gold is refined the refiner can see his own reflection in the molten gold as he gazes down from above. God likewise sees His own image in us as we become more like Him.  Although we don’t like the heat, He gives grace to sustain us even if we have to endure it for years. 

These refining experiences can include things like lack of fruitfulness after years of ministry, lack of finances, some physical infirmities, personality challenges, disunity, lack of team members, spiritual attacks, loneliness, fear, powerlessness, lack of direction, criticism, false accusations, betrayal, lack of recognition for your endeavours and all of this calls us to die to self.

When I was going through the refiner’s fire, Psalm 66:10-12 was a great encouragement to me.

Nik Ripken in ‘The insanity of God’ draws parallels between suffering Christians in China and those in Russia. Russian Believers looked upon suffering as something to be endured (like we would in the West), but in China you wouldn’t expect to be appointed as a pastor unless you had served your time in prison for your faith. Suffering in this way was part of their theological education. 

This is not doom and gloom however, for it is in hard times David discovered God in new ways and when many of his glorious Psalms of praise were written. It is a time when God’s glory is revealed.

Jude 1:24 ‘To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.’

  • Enjoying God

 A friend recently shared with us how a couple of days ago when sitting down on a lounge sofa, his young daughter dragged up a chair close to him and sat down. Once seated, gazing closely into his face mentioned that she wanted to chat with him. His response to her was, “What do you want to chat with me about?” Her reply simply was, “I don’t know, I just want to chat about anything”. It thrilled my friend’s heart as they just chatted. Our heavenly Father likewise finds great pleasure when we just want to sit and enjoy His company.

Before the creation of the world He created us for ‘His will and pleasure’ (Eph 1:4,5). This was even before we could do anything of use. Likewise, when Jesus was baptised before His ministry began, a voice resounded from heaven, ‘this is my Son, whom I love’ (Matt 3:17).  

Are you enjoying God or are you trying to earn acceptance by working hard and trying to live a holy life? By faith, accept what Jesus has done through the finished work of the cross. He personally loves you. Amazing!

Spiritual disciplines are so much easier to follow through on when we are in love with Jesus.

Resources:
Desiring God, by J Piper
The Insanity of God, by Nik Ripken
The Fire of Delayed answers by Bob Sorge

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