As a Soldier in the Army Reserves, one of my requirements is that I pass the Army's physical fitness test twice per year. This includes push-ups, sit-ups, a 2-mile run, and a weigh-in.
Much of your confidence, or lack thereof, going into the test has to do with how disciplined you were in preparing to take the test. In my case, I did fine on the test itself but it was much more difficult than it should have been because of my own lack of self-discipline in preparing properly for the test.
I often wonder how many times this is the case for us in our spiritual lives. Does serving the Lord feel much harder than it should? Does prayer ever just feel difficult? Does worship not seem to come naturally? It may well be that, like me, the level of difficulty increases because of our own lack of disciplined exercise. It is much like Paul wrote to a struggling church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 9:24 when he said,
"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 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. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."
Run in such a way that you may win, he says. If you have ever run or seen a runner who is training to win, then you know that it takes discipline, consistency, running when you don't feel like it, and pushing yourself to a place that stretches your limitations. So it is with our walk with Christ. We must be disciplined - praying and walking with the Lord for the benefit of simply being in His presence. We must be consistent - reading His Word regularly and letting it penetrate into our hearts and minds. And, most importantly, we must allow His Holy Spirit to stretch us to places that are uncomfortable for us.
We find an excellent biblical model for what this looks like from the early church. Luke tells us in Acts 2:42 that,
"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."
The devoted themselves, Luke tells us. This is a serious commitment. This is not practice when it was convenient, or when it felt good, or when there were no scheduling conflicts. No, this was a steadfast and unwavering devotion to be with the Lord and with His people. Is it easier not to be devoted in this way? Sure it is! And it has been happening for all of church history. The author of Hebrews cautioned against giving in to such a thought process in Hebrews 10:23-25.
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near."
In our personal lives as well as in our corporate lives it is easy and incredibly tempting to neglect discipline, but it will always be to your detriment. If your walk with the Lord feels much harder than it should, then perhaps, like me, your self-discipline has disappeared. We must run after the Lord as one who runs to win. We must read, serve, pray, worship, and love even when our body is telling us to do the exact opposite. The harder our life gets, the greater our need to be with the Lord and His people. Make it a priority to be a disciplined Christian who loves the Lord enough to spend time with Him regularly and often. You will not be disappointed in the difference it will make in your life.
Each week this blog will be updated with a word for the week from my current studies.