When she put the stubby three-ring binder in my hands, I didn’t recognize it at first. I was at my mom’s house helping her look through her closets and pick out clothes for our big trip (see this post). She handed me the small black binder and said she’d come across it some time ago and kept forgetting to mention it, thought I might want it.
At first I didn’t even recognize it, but as soon as I started turning pages, the rush of memory brought everything back.
Long ago, these pages were precious to me and this simple little binder was my treasure. The small binder is filled with multicolored sheets to designate various categories: pea-soup green for “Message Notes,” blue for “Stewardship of Time” with blocks of time to be filled in and a space to list a “Goal for the Week.” There is a weekly calendar to list appointments, ministry opportunities, and daily responsibilities. The gold pages are filled with instructions and assignments for daily time in the Word and disciplines for spiritual growth.
The pink sheets held prayer concerns—requests listed almost forty years ago with one side to list “Praise and Thanksgiving.” It was my first discipleship journal/notebook.
Finding Hidden Treasure ~
This was where my spiritual growth really began. I was a fourteen-year-old girl who loved Jesus, loved the Word, but was fairly clueless about spiritual growth. My pastor challenged us to begin a program of spiritual discipleship and this was the tool he gave us to apply ourselves to growth. (How I love that pastor, still today, even though I haven’t seen him in almost thirty years, thinking of him now brings fresh tears.) That’s why this binder is still a treasure to me.
Your pastor may not have placed in your hands a three-ring binder, and you may be a new (or aging) believer but clueless about growing spiritually. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m glad to share with you some things I’ve found helpful in the decades that I’ve walked with Christ. This week, we’ll look at a few of these spiritual disciplines.
- Be Rooted in Love
Any discipleship practice must begin here. This is what will determine whether you are going through the dutiful motions that become religious rituals or whether you are thriving in a love relationship with Christ. How do you discern what your motive is? Ask. Ask God to uncover and reveal the hidden motives of your heart. Ask Him to increase your love for Him. Ask Him to lead you through His Word to a deeper understanding and knowledge of Him. As your knowledge of Jesus grows, your love for Him will increase. Fix your heart and mind on Him and He will deepen your love for Him. Ask God to do this in your heart.
Here’s a hint, as you try to discern whether you’re motivated by love or by guilt. Are you approaching spiritual disciplines with joy and anticipating a greater understanding of your Savior? Or are you dreading reading the Word, spending time in prayer, and fearful to talk to others about spiritual things? We all have days when it’s hard to do any of those things, but I mean, generally, do you enjoy God or do you serve Him because you feel that’s your duty?
- Recognize the Need for Personal Discipline
As a fourteen-year-old girl, I didn’t know much about the hard rigors of life. I had my daily chores, and of course there was fun stuff like homework that had to be tackled. I held down a few cush baby-sitting jobs, and during the years I was on my high school swim team, I had to discipline myself for athletic exercise, and I had to make myself practice the piano (which I didn’t do enough, poor Mrs. Dodson!). But rigorous discipline was a foreign concept.
If you’re an adult, you’ve had to learn the discipline that comes from holding down a job, or caring for a family. But some people reserve organization and orderliness to the work sphere and don’t think about how a structured approach is also necessary for spiritual growth.
The book of Proverbs encourages the kind of orderly structure that I’m talking about. I don’t often use the NLT, but I cracked up when I read its translation of Proverbs 6:6:
[box]“Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!”[/box]
You may think that sounds a tad harsh, but I need that prod. It’s easy to procrastinate and put things off . . . I’m thinking about clutter that I need to organize and chunk right now! But when we put things off, or when we fail to plan, we stay stuck in the same rut of childishness. If you desire to grow, you’ll need to put some effort into organizing and planning for that growth. That’s why I found the categorized notebook so helpful when I first started out.
If you want to grow, you need to be intentional in finding that space of time that you’ll need. It may mean that you have to get up earlier, which could require going to bed earlier! Or mean saying no to a late night time-waster.
In the next few days, I’ll provide additional steps for spiritual growth. But today, consider whether you’ve ever been intentional in your pursuit of knowing God.
How much do you desire to grow in intimacy with Christ?
How committed are you to getting into the Word?
If you desire to grow spiritually, you will need to apply yourself, the effort is worth it—I assure you!