Occasionally I browse my way over to the Northumbria Community online to pray the daily offices. You can learn more about that here if you’re interested. Recently I also downloaded a dramatic and interpretive reading of the Psalms inspired by the Bible Experience. These and other tools help me do something which seems to be a necessity in order to daily walk with Christ.
It’s no secret that if I stop running and training regularly for marathons, several things will happen:
- Gain weight
- Lose endurance
- Perform poorly in the event
In the area of financial responsibility…careless spending, failure to save, and neglecting the behaviors which produce income will result in debt and financial ruin.
All these lessons are quite easily learned and without much difficulty can be applied.
Is it the same in the area of spiritual health? I often “preach” that it is…our spiritual health can appear to be directly proportional to the effort and time which we invest in appropriate Christian disciplines and behaviors: prayer, bible study, worship, fasting, meditation, serving the poor, reading, etc. In fact, I was just discussing the need for “daily quiet time” with a student who has allowed me the privilege of discipling them in the faith. As I challenged him to incorporate this component of spending time with God, two issues began to irritate my own mind on the matter.
- First of all, it was a reminder to practice what I preach. I’ve become lax, you might say, when it comes to my disciplined approach to a daily “quiet time” with the Lord over the years. That has been a reaction, in part, to the second issue.
- There is a danger of cultivating a spiritual work ethic which can lead to pride and entitlement. A friend of mine shared a quote (or paraphrase) from Brennan Manning recently which suggested something to the effect of this…if he had his life to do over, he wouldn’t waste one minute on trying to develop his spiritual life.
So I come back to the analogy. Is developing our ‘spiritual’ life (as if we have a non-spiritual life??) similar to mastering our finances, or our health, or any other area which requires discipline? Is our spiritual health directly proportional to the amount of time we spend “with God” or engage in the disciplines of the Christian life? Or are we compelled to engage in those disciplines as a response to the overwhelming grace of God?
Resolving that tension is perhaps not the right question. Maybe the right question is this:
How do I live within the tension of grace and working out salvation?
How do I push myself to lean further up and further in to the Kingdom while avoiding a tendency towards pride, duty, or entitlement?