Welcome to Day 3 of the Spiritual Disciplines Challenge!
I hope that as you are participating in these disciplines that you are beginning to feel some of the benefits of setting time each day to be available to God and what he is doing in us.
The past two days have been focussed on practicing some of the Inward Disciplines. Inward Disciplines are those that we practice alone, just us and God. The results of this time set apart with God will flow into our everyday lives through our attitudes and actions but are not necessarily measurable and visible to others apart from that.
We’re going to step into some of the Outward Disciplines. Outward Disciplines are practiced alone, but the results of those are seen in tangible external ways. What is happening on the inside, the changes inside of us, begins to be practiced in the world around us. Don’t be nervous! An important element of our relationship with God and how we are growing and changing is how we interact in community with other people. How we love others, serve them, have relationship with them.
Stick with me. The Spiritual Disciplines are intended to change us. As our hearts and minds are transformed, we start to desire for our world around us to align with what God desires. And that can’t be done in a vacuum.
Ready? Here we go!
Day 3: Simplicity
Simplicity is a buzz word in our culture, boards on Pinterest, blogs about a simplified life. People want less so they can feel more. They want less to worry about so they can experience more. It’s a backlash to our consumeristic, Me-driven culture.
Simplicity, when practiced as a discipline, can bring calm to the storm, awareness to those blind spots in our lives, and freedom from the pressures of the world around us. When we focus on what God desires for us and the world and hold fast to that, things become sharper and clearer. We know better how to live in this world in a way that reflects God and our desire to see the world through his eyes and love with his heart.
Here’s what Simplicity is not. Simplicity is not seeing the material world as bad and wanting nothing to do with it. Simplicity is an inward reality that reflects an outward lifestyle. Realizing that what you believe and think and feel on the inside needs to translate into how you act and acquire. It is walking on this earth being aware that we are called to be good stewards of what we have. It is realizing that God created beautiful things and desires for us to enjoy them. It is seeing how we need to be aware of how the material interacts with the spiritual in good ways (helping others with the resources we have) and bad (using the material to met spiritual and emotional needs).
So how do we develop an inward reality of simplicity. This takes some personal reflection. At it’s core, simplicity is the idea that we cannot serve two masters (Luke 16:13, Luke 6:20-24). Simplicity is more than a discussion about whether or not a Christian can be rich. Simplicity seeks to show us that what we have is God’s and is to be freely shared with others. This becomes easier as we begin to love with God’s heart for others and seek justice and mercy.
Really, it all comes down to where does our treasure lie? Take a minute and reflect on what you hold onto tightly.
What gives us our value?
Status? Possessions? Busyness? Giftedness? Being a parent?
What things would we be afraid of giving up?
What gives us our security?
Because the truth is, a person can have an outward life of simplicity and be filled with anxiety.
Does our treasure lie in our trust of God or does it lie in the security of the world around us? Read Matthew 6:25-33 and ask yourself, ‘Do I rely on the things of this world or do I put my trust in God?’
If this trust and simplicity are something that we truly desire, and I have to admit that this has been a struggle for me in the past, how do we start to cultivate this inward reality of simplicity?
Three ways we start to set our hearts and minds to an inward reality of simplicity.
1.) To receive what we have as a gift from God
We depend on God for sun, air, water. All the basic things that we need are out of our control but under God’s control.
And this one is very difficult for many people. What we have is not a result of our labor.When we start thinking this, it needs only the disaster to remind us that not everything is under our control and how dependant we are on God
2.) To know that it is God’s business, not ours, to care for what we have.
This does not negate being practical, I’m not saying be a poor steward of your money, but nothing we put up to protect us is full-proof. Our employment, our possessions, our reputation, all of these are things that we need to trust God with in order to have that inward reality of simplicity.
3.) To have our goods available to others
If we fear the future, making our goods available to others is extremely difficult. If we truly trust God we know that then he can care for us and this frees us to help others if they are in need and experience that joy of serving others.
When we start to have this idea of trust in God and simplicity in the core of our being, it starts to translate into the outward areas in our lives.
Now How about the Outward Reality?
There are some key areas where the Outward Reality of Simplicity is reflected. And all of these areas are sensitive areas. Places in our lives we can feel inadequate, judged, trapped. But what if we allow God free reign in those areas? What kind of freedom from those feelings could we experience?
Financial – When we look at how we manage our money, what is our motivation? How much of what we do with our money is status based? I need this because… or Fear based? If I don’t have this then…
What would happen if we started thinking of what we need, not what keeps us in a certain place socially? What if we were released from that need to keep up or that fear and were free to give and freed to focus on who God sees us as being?
Relationships – This one is possibly the most difficult for me. I’m a people pleaser and I hate conflict. Recipe for relationship simplicity disaster. Once I realized that there are ways I can start to focus on God in relationship to my actions, my fears started to abate and I started to make better relationship choices.
One thing the Bible calls us to do is practice simplicity in our speech with others. Matthew 5:37 tells us to ‘Let you yes be yes and your no be no’. If we practice this properly in our relationships, would we see a decrease in resentment from feeling overextended? Would we see less manipulation and healthier relationships? If we can simplify our relationships by being lovingly truthful, not to wound, but to strengthen bonds could we see stronger relationships? If we can start to trust God with our need to please and our wounds, could we experience relational health and healing?
Time – There may be no better measure of where our treasure lies than how we structure our time. Does hockey practice outweigh our time with God by hours? Would we pass over time with God and yet never ever miss a date with another person? How we structure our day, how we spend our time, reflects where our treasure lies.
Simplicity can seem intimidating when we think about getting to the place where we are at peace with trusting God with our everything. I know I don’t have it all figured out yet, but when I started to be intentional about this discipline, I started seeing a change in myself that continues and grows. So how do we even start? This is where the Challenge for this week comes in!
Developing a Mindset of Simplicity.
Look around you and reflect on where you put your energy, resources, and time.
Write these things down. It can be helpful if you write down what your day looks like, schedule, purchases, etc.
What are the things/areas that are the focus?
Where are you looking to material things other than God? For relief from fear or stress, for acceptance, for help?
Make another list of things that you would like to prioritize in your life: Time with God, time with family, the ability to financially help another person, a more organized home, less stuff, more of something.
What are the things that are out if sync? Where can you take energy from one thing and put it with another?
2.) Pray. Ask God to help you organize your priorities and focus on the things that are most important.
3.) Plan. Put some steps in place to practice the discipline of Simplicity. Choose one area of your life, financial, time, relationships. Make a plan today for how you can bring this area before God on a daily basis. Is there a conversation you need to have? Some financial restructuring? Schedule restructuring?Small steps can make a big difference, big steps a huge difference!
I’ll be doing this too and I can’t wait to hear from you about how you’re seeking simplicity in your life!