Welcome to Spiritual Disciplines Challenge Day 5!
Beyond the Challenge
The Spiritual Disciplines are part of a life-long journey of engaging in our relationship with God. As with any human relationship, if we are intentional, if we show up, if we make it a priority, our relationship with God will grow. We will learn to know him better, our trust in him will deepen, and all of those wonderful Fruits of the Spirit will continue to grow in us.
So with all of my heart I would like to encourage you to continue in practicing the disciplines. This challenge has given a taste of the disciplines but is by no means exhaustive. Do some digging. Do some reading. Ask others what they do. Be open to new things and new ways of interacting with God.
And don’t let the pace of life interfere. Being busy, when we are busy doing the things that please God, is nothing to fear. We minister to others, devote time to spend with God, go about our lives at work, home, and play. What matters is how we prioritize our time and relationship with God.
So how do we practice the disciplines in the midst of the busyness?
God’s voice about our priorities can be best heard when we’re practicing the disciplines. When we spend time with him, our patience grows, our worry diminishes. I notice a huge difference in how I react to situations in my life when I make time with God before my toddlers wake up. The things I learn, the ways I discipline myself and let God speak into my life help me to handle life better. Fasting helps me interact with my children with patience in tough situations because I’m learning patience in not so ideal situations. When I spend time in prayer and meditating on who God is, my fears of the future rest in his guiding hands. Spiritual Disciplines can help lighten the load of our daily lives by allowing God to change us and speak into our lives. Not just for the big issues, but the little issues as well. The spilled milk, the co-worker who doesn’t pull their weight, the tantrums (ours or other people’s), for all of these things, the disciplines help us build the resilience that only comes from God.
And others will start to see this resilience. Because our spiritual growth plays out in community. I know this goes against a trend in our culture that ‘my relationship with God is between me and God’. Yes, at the core it is our relationship with God that matters, however, in the New Testament when the authors speak of fellowship, fellowship is with both God and other people (1 John 1:3). We experience God in the experiences of others and our collective experiences. That’s why some of the Spiritual Disciplines are best practiced corporately. We learn from one another and we are encouraged by one another.
That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to facilitate this Spiritual Disciplines challenge. I’ve learned that the support and encouragement of other people helps us to persevere. Hebrews 3:13 says ‘But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness’. It has been others in my life that have encouraged me, helped me to keep on when I was tired or wanted to quit, and kept lovingly pointing me towards God as my source for truth, life, and hope. It was under the encouragement of a man I knew and respected that I even ventured into practicing the disciplines at all. And it’s others that I’ve looked to for accountability when I knew I would be tempted to give up and go back to the same old, same old.
And we need to remember that discipline is not a bad thing, a dirty word that we don’t want to think about. Discipline lets the athlete excel, trains that mind, hones our focus and drives us forward. If we embrace discipline, then we embrace God’s plan for us and who knows what wonders we will see.
Day 5: Celebration!!!!!!!!!!
After the solemn talk about discipline above, it seems discordant that something like celebration would be seen alongside such disciplines as fasting or meditation. But this discipline, that we practice with other people is essential and at the core of all the other disciplines.
Celebration gives strength to Life. The disciplines must be done in a spirit of festivity or they become dull and a burden.
If the disciplines are nothing but hardship, if we don’t celebrate where God has brought us from where we’ve been, if we don’t celebrated the fact that we get to have a relationship with the God of the universe who loves us, then we’ve missed the point.
The joy of the Lord is our strength. As we draw nearer to him, learn more about ourselves, start to be available to his work in our lives, we begin to experience some of that joy. We celebrate freedom from anxiety and care, we celebrate his love for us, we celebrate so many things about who he is.
And this is an everyday joy. A joy that stays with us in times of bitterness and heartache. A joy that comes from obedience to Christ rather than our situation. It’s a joy that strengthens and renews us and points us toward God.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7
And, celebration itself does things for us. It saves us from taking ourselves too seriously. I admit, I have cheered while doing some of the disciplines. Sometimes for the very fact that I persevered. And God and others have rejoiced along with me.
And celebration gives us perspective. In the midst of our struggles, where we think the change comes slowly or not at all, celebration helps us to see how far we’ve come and how God has been with us through it all. Celebration also helps us in times of sadness. It seems disrespectful to think of celebration in the face of grief or loss, but focusing on God, on who he is and that he has conquered sin and death, gives that glimmer of hope and renewal in dark times.
And…Celebration leads to more celebration! It is a pattern we need to develop. It’s the time of year for celebrations, they seem to blend into one another, and that is a good thing. What if we intentionally cultivated the idea of spiritual celebration throughout the year? And not just celebrating God and what he’s done in our own lives, but celebrating what he’s done in the lives of other people as well?
So let’s begin the party!
Celebrate with those around you what God has done in your lives.
If you were all here with me, I’d put out a spread, and we’d all gather together to tell stories of what God has done in us and through us this week. We’ve had a beginning in the posts you’ve written, but this kind of celebration calls for something face to face.
The challenge today seems simple but can be intimidating because it’s a little out of the norm for how we seem to function in our relationships.
I’m asking each of us to choose 2-3 people in our lives and share stories with them about what God has done for us in and through this challenge. We can celebrate new revelations, new paths to follow. We can celebrate how there’s something we believe needs changing in our lives and thank God for that insight. We can celebrate stepping outside of the box in our relationship with God or celebrate the renewal of previous practices that have been set aside or forgotten.
And here’s the second part. Find 2-3 people (they can be the same people or different people) and intentionally celebrate them. Ask them what God has been doing in their lives, and find a way to encourage or celebrate with them.
And celebrating is contagious. It grows and multiplies.
I’m excited to celebrate with all of you what God has done in us and through us this week! Let the partying begin!