This morning my daughter told me that she noticed one of her almost four-year-old boys sighing as he stared sadly at his fingers. “What’s wrong, little buddy?” she asked.
“Oh, I just can’t do it!” he moaned. “Some of my fingers are taller than the others and I can’t make them all the same size!”
This is the same boy who was mildly distressed when he began marching in place in the kitchen and noticed he wasn’t going anywhere. He said, “How do I get out of the kitchen, mom!?”
I think we all know that feeling. We have a great idea, or work to set some goals, and then become frustrated when things just don’t work out the way we had planned. There are all kinds of resources available to help us set and achieve goals; I have nothing new to add to that discussion. I'm working on that myself!
During the Sunday school time this last week, I talked about spiritual disciplines or practices which nurture your faith, feeding your spirit with the Word of God.
“The disciplines of the Holy Spirit provide us with practical and realistic means of choosing to draw near, give up, and reach out. They are the means by which we become more like Jesus. They help us see how we can become, by the power of the Holy Spirit, an effective, love-filled community of believers growing into the heart of God.”1
We need different spiritual disciplines at different times in our lives. And if you’ve engaged in one discipline and it becomes routine or does not hold your energy like it used to, or feels legalistic, choose something different. I have journaled, used breath prayers, held one-day-a-week fasts, went on weekly prayer and intercession walks, used art, attended silent retreats, to name a few. And each of those were important to my spiritual journey at specific times and in specific contexts. Do I say, “Read your Bible and pray”? Yes; but I won’t tell you how to do that because that discipline is different for each person. I won’t tell you to rise at 4am to spend three hours on your knees, because I don’t want to do that (unless God tells me to)! What nourishes your soul and your life? The Holy Spirit wants to spend time with you; what practice is the Spirit drawing you to?
The important thing is this: the GOAL for spiritual disciplines is to honor the presence of Jesus in your life and for you to become more like him. YOU CAN’T ACCOMPLISH THAT GOAL.
Trying on your own power to be formed, transformed, and conformed into the image of Christ is like trying to grow your fingers to be all the same length and trying to get somewhere by marching in place. Ain’t gonna happen.
“God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
"The path to power must always be the path of humble dependence on God. Without Christ we can do nothing of spiritual significance regardless [of our own efforts]. The Spirit’s power at work through the disciplines is not something we can grasp after, control, or ‘practice’ into being. We must humbly enter the disciplines confident in God and not ourselves, ready for his power to be perfected in our weakness, remembering that human transformation is his work.”2
Brothers and sisters, as God’s beloved children, here is our first goal: to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.
“When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart…” Jeremiah 29:13
I’m praying for you,
1 Dr. Siang-Yang Tan & Dr. Douglas H. Greg, Disciplines of the Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), 31.
2 Ibid, 35.