Has this happened to you before?
Say you attempted to join your church’s year long plan to read the whole Bible and you started out strong. The first week, you follow the schedule to a “T” and your relationship with God is just soaring! Week two comes and you’re starting to falter. You’re read about 3, maybe 4 days out of the week. By week three, you’re barely crawling, You’re reading maybe once, at the most. At that point, how do you feel? Most likely horrible. Not many of us like to commit to a task, only to fail so early on. The bigger question should be,” How do we respond?”
There are two doors that people usually open in response to a failure in any spiritual discipline. Its not just in reading the bible, it could be in prayer, or meditation, or quiet times, etc.
Behind Door #1 is the attitude of “Try Harder!” Behind that door, people don’t sympathize with you, but rather critique you. They put you through a guilt trip. According to them, you just didn’t give it a good enough try. “Really put some effort into it,” they would say, or “have you tried reading the Bible early in the morning like Jesus would have done?” But…should Christianity be a “try harder, do better, just need to mentally convince myself to love it more so that I somehow can become more spiritual like everyone I see at church and thus, will be able to read my Bible everyday” religion? I don’t think so (Phil 2:8-9)
Behind Door #2 is the attitude of “Don’t Try!” Behind this door are people who espouse the idea that you need to “let go and let God.” The idea here is that you are trying too hard. You need to just stop trying and allow God to work in you, to bring you to a place where you can, in this example, read the Bible every day. There is an imagery of us just lying in bed and saying,”Ok God…do your work on me. Make me into a mature, spiritual giant!” I don’t know about you, but that just sounds lazy! While we cannot rely on our own strength, there must effort from our side. This doesn’t sound quite right either (James 2:24, 26).
Most of the times, we stop at these two doors and either try harder or stop trying. However, there is a third door that Paul seems to advocate from the New Testament.
Behind Door #3 is the attitude of “Train Yourself.” The idea here isn’t that you’re unspiritual and thus you need to try harder. Its not that you’re trying too hard and that you need to just stop trying and allow God to work. The idea here is found in 1 Timothy 4:7:
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather, train yourself for godliness.
We also find this idea of training in 1 Tim 4:6, 2 Tim 3:16, Heb 5:14, Heb 12:11 and Titus 2:12. Dr. Roy King defined training as “doing what I can do, in order to increase my capacity to be able to do, what I cannot do, by just trying.”
So, if you are desire to grow in the spiritual disciplines….to be able to pray deeper and longer, to be able to spend time in God’s word every day for an hour, to be able to wake up and have a quiet time with God in the morning…instead of trying to run that “marathon without first training,” first train. That might mean just praying a minute every day to begin. This could mean reading 1 chapter out of the New Testament every other day to start. Find where you’re at and then take baby steps. No Olympic athlete got their gold medal without first training and neither will we.
So next time you “fail,” what door are you going to enter?