As 2016 comes to a close, and you look ahead to starting a new year, how are you doing? Other than still recovering from a hectic Christmas season. Do you feel like your spirit is running on empty? Are you tired of just going through the motions of superficial spirituality? As we develop patterns in our lives, especially within the rhythms of staying busy in the local church, it becomes very easy to give the appearance of spiritual activity without experiencing spiritual vitality.
One way we often try to address this sense of emptiness or inadequacy is through New Year’s resolutions. As you make personal goals and plans for the New Year, I’d like to invite you to reexamine how you’re doing with the fundamentals of the everyday Christian life: spiritual disciplines. Renew your devotion to the Lord in 2017 by identifying any of the basic spiritual disciplines that you may have neglected — Bible study (read), meditation (reflect), memorization (recite), prayer (respond), fasting (refrain), and giving (return).
Bible Study: 2 Timothy 3:14-17 | Deuteronomy 6:4-7 | Ezra 7:10 | James 1:22
Don’t let your eyes just move across the words in your Bible, verse after verse, as you dutifully “spend time in God’s Word.” Read and study the Bible with focus and determination to actually understand. Determine what the author is saying and what he means (interpretation), then move to what you should do in your life as a result (application).
Meditation: Joshua 1:8 | Psalm 1:1-3 | Psalm 77:12 | Psalm 119:15-20, 97
When asked why he meditates, Dietrich Bonhoeffer replied, “Because I am a Christian.” Beyond simply studying the Bible, spend time reflecting on and thinking about what you’ve read. Unlike Eastern meditation, which seeks to empty the mind and be detached from the world, this is a call to fill your mind with God’s Word and become more attached to Him.
Memorization: Psalm 119:9-13 | Matthew 4:1-11 | 1 Peter 3:15
When you commit scripture to memory, you’ll always have your Bible with you—enabling you to constantly meditate on God’s Word, discern truth, resist temptation, and share with others. Learn God’s Word to do God’s will.
Prayer: Luke 11:1-13 | Matthew 6:5-13; 7:7-11 | 1 John 3:21-22; 5:14-15 | Romans 8:26-27
As God speaks to us through our study of the Bible, and we gain insight and deeper appreciation through meditation, we respond through prayer. Prayer is ultimately not about you changing God, but Him changing you.
Fasting: Matthew 6:16-18; 9:14-15 | Acts 14:23 | Matthew 4:1-2 | Ezra 10:6 | Esther 4:12-16
John Wesley said, “Some have exalted religious fasting beyond all scripture and reason; and others have utterly disregarded it.” Fasting is a humbling act of denial meant to strengthen your dependence on and satisfaction in God and is often associated with mourning for sinfulness, repentance, and preparation to do God’s will.
Giving: 2 Corinthians 8:12; 9:6-8 | 1 Timothy 6:17-19
You should give God your best, or the firstfruits, not your leftovers. Giving in this manner is an explicit acknowledgement of God as the owner and source of your wealth and you as simply a steward He has chosen to entrust with certain resources. While God is more concerned with your attitude than the amount, don’t forget what the amount you give says about your attitude.
When I consider how essential spiritual disciplines are to the life of a believer, I’m reminded of a children’s song: “Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow… Don’t read your Bible, forget to pray, and you’ll shrink, shrink, shrink…” For some reason, we can never outgrow that truth.