I used to think that there were two components involved in spiritual growth:
(1) What I Am
(2) What I Should Be.
And the goal of the Christian life was to simply move from what I am to what I should be. It sounds simple enough, but simple answers are not always as helpful as they seem. I am reminded of the story of the man drowning in the ocean. He might have been careless and fallen in the water or, he might have been foolish and jumped in. But regardless of how he came to be there, the sea was rough, the man was very tired and it looked like he would most likely drown. As the story goes, someone floated by in a boat, saw the man and gave him some very simple, easy to understand advice, “What you need is dry land.” Nothing could have been truer or less helpful.
Simply telling someone where they are and where they should be does not take them there or help them get there. It doesn’t work for them and it won’t work for you. This is because there not just two components involved in spiritual growth. There are three: (1) What I Am (2) What I Should Be and
(3) What I Think I Can Be.
You see, it doesn’t matter what I should be, if I don’t believe it’s possible. And so, here is the question I’ve been asking myself. Do I really believe Jesus when he says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)?
My question comes from this final statement. The yoke of Jesus … the burden of Jesus … do I believe it is easy … do I believe it is light?
Do I believe that spiritual growth is easy or difficult? Jesus says that his way of life, his style of living, his way of thinking, making decisions, talking and acting can be “learned” will bring “rest” and is both “easy” and “light.”
Do I believe him? Do we believe him?
I hope we do, because this is way we approach education and athletics. This is the way we master any skill. We practice. We train. And over time, to quote Jesus, we “learn.” Someone once said, “We can give our heart to God immediately, but our habits come more slowly.” But still, they come. The more I practice the kindness, forgiveness, patience, love and purity of God, the more fruit of his Spirit will be rooted in my heart and flourishing in my life. Can you picture the habit of patience flourishing in your life, or the attitudes of forgiveness and kindness thriving in your life?
Now, on the other hand, if faith is just a weekend “hobby” it will always be difficult. It will always be a struggle. But if I make the decision to “learn” from Jesus, to follow a slow, steady, consistent spiritual process, then I will find “rest” not disorder, and over time the way of Jesus will become “easy.”
It’s principle of life. We become better at what we repeatedly do.
This process is sometimes called “spiritual formation” and is made up of “spiritual disciplines” – prayer, meditation, study, simplicity, solitude, fasting, service, silence, confession, worship, celebration and more. I am thankful that more and more, these “tools” are being utilized on a daily basis, and are bringing true rest and significant change into the lives of many.
The recently departed Dallas Willard (1935-2013) once said in an interview, “Spiritual formation isn’t new; it’s only been lost for a while.”
Is spiritual formation finding its way into your life, or is it still lost? Do you believe that spiritual growth can be learned? Do you believe that Jesus’ “yoke” can become “easy?”
It doesn’t simply depend upon what you think you should be. It depends upon what you think you can be. It depends upon whether you believe Jesus.