I’m a creature of habit. I’m driven by routine. To be perfectly honest, it’s quite easy for me to take a good routine and turn it into a good, old-fashioned, going-through-the-motions habit.
The same thing goes for my spiritual disciplines, I’m afraid. I can get into a rut far too easily. As much as I hate to admit it, I can skim through a Bible reading or pray the same things over and over again for days on end before I can shake myself out of my spiritual sleepwalking.
My problem is that what should be a spiritual discipline for me becomes merely a habit. Instead of being intentional about taking the steps to grow, I often just check another box on the metaphorical to-do list. (Let me pause here to say that I’m not beating myself up. I fight these urges every day; sometimes I win and sometimes I lose. I try as hard as I can not to coast in my spiritual walk, although it happens from time to time…)
Paul writes about spiritual discipline using a sports metaphor…probably my favorite type of metaphor:
“…train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
1 Timothy 4:7-8 (NIV)
A friend of mine who plays football for (ahem) a non-UGA school, told me that in a typical week the team practices around ten hours. I’m assuming that doesn’t count watching films, team meetings, and workouts as well. Obviously it pays off when a team wins; even in a loss, one can often see the fruits of all the hard work. Running plays, working out, and performing drills aren’t done in a haphazard, lazy manner; they are done with the goal of growing as a team (and even bettering oneself as an individual player).
The point I’m making here is that our spiritual lives require the discipline that an elite athlete has for his/her sport. If we work at bettering ourselves spiritually, we will grow closer to God and build up our defenses against temptation and negativity.
“Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-25 (NIV)
Aren’t eternal rewards worth the effort?