That was a long title. I bet you can’t say it five times quickly! But bear with me. I’m going to explain it, and I think, if you’ve weathered 2020 anything like I have, you might need to hear this.
There’s an “L” word that none of us like to be called, but if we’re honest, it’s probably become true of many of us over the last six months. No, I’m not calling you a liar. Or a loser. But I bet many of you, like me, may sense you’ve grown a tiny bit lazy in certain areas of your life. Perhaps a gentler word is “apathetic.”
And that apathy is totally understandable. In the span of two weeks this March, routines we’ve relied upon for years were thrown out the window. Workout on a regular basis? Yeah, your gym isn’t open now. Used to crushing it and being uber-productive at work? Yeah, your office is in your toddler’s playroom now. Used to investing in your marriage by getting away together? Guess what – the entire world, other than your house, is closed.
It’s no wonder many of us have had to battle apathy as we try to fight for some semblance of a “new normal.” Sure, we know that our relationship with God is the most important part of our lives. And we know that we need to draw on His strength and power, especially in tough seasons. But still, we find it hard to get back on track.
It’s easy to think the answer is just “trying harder.” But how many times have you “tried harder” at the beginning of a new year, only to abandon all your resolutions a few weeks later?
Fortunately, there’s a better way. In 1 Timothy 4:7, the Apostle Paul urges Timothy to “train” himself for godliness. We grow spiritually not by trying but through training. Triers expect to achieve instant, heroic results and get frustrated when that doesn’t happen. Trainers take small, simple steps toward their goals on a regular basis, and over the long-haul they experience spiritual transformation.
How do we train spiritually? The Bible lays out practices that have the power to shape and transform us. These practices include but aren’t limited to: Scripture reading and memorization, prayer, times of silence with God, corporate worship, confession of sin, and fasting.
Show me a person who is strong spiritually. Show me a person who leans on God on a daily basis and experiences His power. Show me a person who genuinely and sacrificially loves his or her family and everyone around them. Show me a person who is resilient in the face of life’s challenges and patient when life doesn’t go their way. Show me someone like this, and I’ll show you someone who has made these disciplines a regular part of their life! I’ll show you someone who is reading their Bible consistently, making time to pray, and leaning into worship.
I think there’s one secret ingredient, though, to making the shift from “trying” to “training.” We could almost consider it the “Miracle Grow” of sanctification.
The secret is Christian community. You see, most of us rarely make progress when we’re training on our own. There’s a reason elite athletes spend thousands of dollars hiring coaches and trainers. We just do better when we have others helping us!
That’s why, at Grace, we say that the church is the center of a Christian’s life. The local church is the only community in the world whose sole mission is to help you succeed spiritually. If we’re going to be the kind of people that God is calling us to be – people who live and walk and act like Jesus – we’re going to need each other to get there.
I’m blessed with a few friends who deeply inspire me to love Jesus. I see the way they serve, and it makes me want to do it, too. We talk about what God is teaching us, and it makes me excited to read my Bible. We share our struggles, and hearing I’m not the only one struggling, gives me hope that God is still at work. We need Christian friends like that.
Now obviously, there’s a COVID-19 caveat to all this. We’ve been told, with good reason, to be cautious about our interactions with others. Every person has had to make important decisions about how to practice social distancing. And there’s no textbook set of right or wrong answers here. I’m so glad that many in our church family, who are at higher risk, are choosing to worship online right now. We miss you and we love you, and we look forward to one day being physically together again, when the time is right.
But I think it’s important to remember that social distancing doesn’t mean we can’t have community with other believers. It just means we need to be creative. As Connections Pastor at Orlando, I’ve loved seeing the way people continue to care for one another in person, over Zoom, on the phone, in outdoor spaces, and in so many other ways.
I’d like to close by asking you two questions.
First, has apathy taken a toll on your spiritual life? If so, join the club. You’re not alone. God has given us a path to getting back on track through practicing spiritual disciplines.
Secondly, who is in your corner encouraging you to take your next step toward Christ? If your corner is looking a little empty right now, we can help! Maybe your next step is actually a step toward bringing the church back to the center of your life. Ask any of our Connections Pastors or leaders – we’ve got Grace Communities at every campus filled with people who would love to be on your team.
This I know: the secret to getting unstuck spiritually is sticking with the spiritual disciplines. And nothing is going to help us stick with it over the long haul more than Christian community.