Summer is on its way out, and for many the school year has already begun. And whether or not you’re a student, chances are your schedule is changing or has already transitioned into what it’s going to look like until the end of the year and into the holiday season. Maybe your fall classes have begun at your high school or college. Maybe you’re out of school but are a parent with kids who have just started the new school year. Or maybe the “school year” doesn’t affect you at all, but all the summer traveling, beach trips and activities have concluded, and you’re simply settling in for the long haul until the holidays. For grandparents, maybe you’re gearing up for a new season of activities and sports for your family’s youngest generation. Whichever applies to you, for millions of Americans, this time of year marks the beginning of a new phase in our annual schedules. With that in mind, and as we do all our planning and scheduling, trying to find a sustainable and healthy regiment for the rest of the year, let’s look at six different spiritual disciplines that we should be careful not to neglect as we do so. This week we’ll look at the first three.
1. Make reading God’s Word a regular part of your schedule. This is an obvious one, right? But how many of us can say we are doing this on a regular basis? How many of us treat spiritual food like we do physical food? When we miss our time in God’s Word, do we feel as if we’ve missed breakfast or lunch, or haven’t had our cup of coffee to which we’ve become so accustomed?
As Christians, we say and believe some incredible things about the Bible. We believe it is literally God communicating to us. We believe it is inspired by the Holy Spirit and is “living and active.” We believe is it is the Bread of Life. But if this is true, and indeed it is, are we living like it? Do we believe it is central and foundational to our everyday lives so much that we should construct our days, our schedules, and our time around it? As we undertake the beast that is planning and regimenting our time for the rest of the calendar year, may we do so as an act of worship that places consistent and sincere time in God’s Word at the center of all that we’re working toward.
2. Find time daily to be in prayer. This is another “Sunday school” answer. We all know we should be praying, or at least praying more. So that’s not the problem. The problem isn’t that we need to be told to pray more. Instead, we need to take practical steps to find replicable and sustainable parts of our day that we set aside as times of prayer. Take stock of your daily routine and find a time or a part of your day that you can consistently devote to prayer.
If you struggle with praying regularly, don’t set your expectations too high. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time. It doesn’t even have to be every day. The most important thing is to find a time where you can be committed and consistent. Maybe it’s in line to pick up kids from school. Maybe it’s on the way to work in the morning, or on the way back home in the evening. What if now is the right time to commit to praying with your spouse before bed once a week? Whatever you decide and whatever may be right for you and your family, as you go into the fall, find a time that you can consistently consecrate to the Lord in sincere and fervent prayer.
3. Look for opportunities in seemingly mundane situations to share the gospel. We all know we should be evangelizing and telling others about the good news of the gospel. But if you’re like me, you sometimes find it hard to find ways to do so that aren’t awkward or abrupt. Now let’s be honest, some of that feeling is because we have become too comfortable with the ways of this world. As a result, we’re out of practice or find it awkward because our hearts and minds aren’t tuned into the kingdom of God like they should be. We’re more comfortable talking about the game last night or our favorite TV shows, as we’re easily distracted and may not always focus on embodying Christian modes of thinking and being.
But there is another side to it as well. Many unbelievers don’t respond to the evangelistic methods that may have worked a generation ago. And while there is still a time and a place for gospel tracts and extemporaneous witnessing, most of the realistic opportunities to share the gospel come in the form of everyday, or seemingly mundane, interactions with others that we often neglect to see as an evangelistic opportunity. However, these interactions, especially the consistent ones, are the ones with significant gospel potential (the barista at the coffee shop you see every day, the waitress that regularly serves you at your favorite diner, or your neighbor with whom you’ve mastered “small talk”).
Consider the people you encounter on a daily or weekly basis. Ask yourself if there is a way that being more intentional in conversations and interactions could lead to gospel conversations. Then be diligent and intentional. Prepare and anticipate God opening up opportunities to share the love of Christ with them. And when He does, you should do as the Scriptures say and be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV).
These are just a few of the ways you can begin thinking about how to incorporate more spiritual disciplines into your schedule moving forward. Obviously, it will look different for everyone and there’s not one magic number of how many minutes in prayer or bible reading a “good Christian” should engage in. But, if we’re honest with ourselves, we are likely to admit that we can do better in some or all of these areas. The most important thing to do then, is not set lofty goals or do the spiritual calculus of what percentage of my time should be spent in the spiritual disciplines, but instead, to be intentional. Make it a priority. Then find ways to commit to engaging in these soul-enriching activities that will help us grow closer to God and to be more like Him as we go into the world. And no matter what that looks like, if we do so with intentionality, we will find God’s blessing and God’s presence since His Word promises it will never return void.
Lord, grant us the strength to make You the center of our lives, not just for the fall and the holiday season, but for the rest of our lives, in devoted service to Your Kingdom and in intimate relationship with You.
(Next week, we’ll look at three more spiritual disciplines to incorporate into our routine. Stay tuned!)