Don’t Expect a Spectacular Christian Life

I suspect one reason we struggle with public and private spiritual disciplines around the Word and prayer is because we expect them to be extraordinary.

We seem to think our discipline issues are due to some sort of discipline defect—and yet we execute spiritual disciplines every day. Even if you rarely touch your Bible, you’re always disciplining yourself toward certain activities you believe will open the door to spiritual vitality and joy.

 

How are your spiritual disciplines?

Take a moment to answer.

In the hundreds of times I’ve asked that question, 99 percent of the time I get a variation of the same answer: I should be doing more.

The reasons vary: I’m not disciplined enough. I don’t know how. I don’t have enough time. I get bored. They didn’t work.

We seem to think our discipline issues are due to some sort of discipline defect—and yet we execute spiritual disciplines every day. Even if you rarely touch your Bible, you’re always disciplining yourself toward certain activities you believe will open the door to spiritual vitality and joy.

Sports stats, Netflix binges, how-to blogs, social media addiction, and a hundred other daily habits can become attempts to find the good life your soul craves.

Craving the Extraordinary

I suspect one reason we struggle with public and private spiritual disciplines around the Word and prayer is because we expect them to be extraordinary. Yet the duty required for discipline seems to contradict our longing for delight, and the ordinariness of spiritual disciplines seem at odds with our desire for the extraordinary. Perhaps we’ve concluded that our relationship with Jesus should be always profound and never average.

My wife is an amazing cook. She follows recipes like a freestyle rapper and creates delicious dishes almost every time. But every now and then, a meal flops. What if I said, “You know, that just wasn’t as good as I wanted. I think I’ll give up food for a month.”

We all know that response would be ridiculous. Average meals don’t drive us away from food. Average meals increase our appreciation for above-average meals.

But don’t we do this with spiritual disciplines? They’re feasts the Lord prepares for us. We drink in relationships at small group or chew on Scripture as we read. The meal isn’t earth-shattering, but it’s solid. Yet we walk away thinking it wasn’t spectacular enough, and then foolishly decide to abstain from eating altogether.

No wonder so many Christians are spiritually starving. We refuse to eat.

Humble Means of Grace

The Old Testament story of Naaman (2 Kings 5:1–14) illustrates this point well. As commander of the Syrian king’s army, Naaman was a big shot. He was also a leper.

One of Naaman’s Hebrew slaves bragged about the prophet Elisha’s healing abilities. So Naaman made the long journey to Elisha’s house and stood outside. But Elisha didn’t go out to greet him; he simply sent a servant to tell Naaman to bathe seven times in the Jordan River.

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