This year, I hired a personal trainer to help me at the gym. What drove my decision was the realization that I was fatigued and out of shape. Our spiritual lives sometimes need help too. We become fatigued and out of shape. We know in our hearts that life transformation is supposed to be part of our spiritual journey, but often we see so little. It leaves us wondering, What am I doing wrong? Why doesn’t my life show more evidence of the radical transformation God calls me to?
Christians Struggle in Today’s Culture
The Apostle Paul wrote that we are “being transformed into His (Christ’s) image – with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Holy Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Reading that you might wonder, Wow! What’s wrong with me? I don’t see much of the promised “ever-increasing glory” in my life. Does this whole life in Christ even work? If that’s you, you are far from alone. Disillusioned, many people are leaving the church.
Author Peter Scazzero writes in his bestselling book:
Researchers have been charting the departing dust of those known as ‘church leavers’ – an increasingly large group that has been gathering in numbers in recent years
Another survey of more than 35,000 Americans by the Pew Research Center finds that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years.
Society itself is becoming increasingly turned off by Christianity. I don’t think we can blame that solely on the growing secularization of our culture. Unfortunately, many have earned the title “judgmental,” and while Jesus calls us to love as He does, so-called Christians spend more time screaming about their rights than they do loving their neighbors.
What’s the answer? The radical life transformation promised in scripture is only possible through a healthy growing relationship with Christ. However, like any relationship, it takes intentionality. You have to invest in your relationship with Christ in order to gain a healthy return as far as being transformed. The Holy Spirit orchestrates the transformation, but He expects us to cooperate. Believers must learn how to develop practices that will lead them to greater spiritual health.
Five Practices for Getting Spiritually Fit
Silence: Our culture has become addicted to noise. Between cell phones, email, social media and television, we have information bombarding our brains 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Yet Jesus invites us to come away, by ourselves, to a quiet place to get some rest (Mark 6:31). It is in the quiet places and spaces that we are able to hear His voice. When God revealed himself to the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 19, the Bible says God was not in a powerful earthquake, not in a roaring fire, but came to Elijah as a still, small voice. This year, I have recommitted to the practice of silence in my own spiritual journey. I tend to live life in the fast lane. Between travelling, speaking, writing and keeping up with family obligations, I realize that I need more quiet in my life to be able to hear the still, small voice of God’s whisper. I practice silence and stillness for a few minutes each day. It takes a little effort to renew this forgotten practice, but it is so worthwhile.
Praise: We were created to worship. We really can’t have a healthy spiritual walk without the practice of worship. I believe we need both times of intentional personal worship and times of corporate worship. As we choose to praise God intentionally, our thoughts shift from our worries and problems to the Holy One who is able to solve these problems and give us peace. Psalm 150 instructs us to make praise the continual pattern of our lives. Here’s the thing: it is impossible to praise God and remain unchanged. Praise is one of the single most effective life transformational tools we’ve been given. Learn to use it!
Bible Meditation: The scripture is our final authority for life and godliness, so how can we experience life change without considering what the scriptures say? Psalm 1 beautifully depicts one who is blessed and joy-filled in their spiritual walk as someone who takes “delight in the law of the Lord and meditates on his law day and night” (Psalm 1:2). The Hebrew word for “meditate” that is used here means to reflect on or to mutter and carries the idea of rehearsing a thought over and over in our minds. The Psalmist goes on to write that the person who delights and meditates on God’s word is one who will live a fruitful spiritual life (Psalm 1:3). I have found it helpful to take a small portion of scripture and meditate on that passage. I write in my journal my thoughts on the passage and consider what God might be speaking to me through the scripture I’ve read. Throughout my day I rehearse the scripture in my mind. By rooting our lives in scripture, we’re not easily rattled or frazzled by current events. We have a steady and strong foundation for our relationship with Christ.
Community: You were designed for community with God and with others. You were never meant to walk your spiritual journey alone. The wise writer of Proverbs wrote, “As iron sharpens iron so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). As you faithfully participate in an authentic community and allow yourself to be vulnerable with other Christ followers, your spiritual transformation will flourish. Rather than isolating yourself, lean in. Dare to be vulnerable and ask others to come alongside you in your spiritual journey.
Genogram: The genogram is a tool that helps you trace patterns of sin and brokenness in your family. The Apostle Paul offers us some great questions when considering our family history: “Rather we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2). Here’s my recommendation: draw your family tree. Then consider questions such as the following: Were there any secret or shameful practices in my family? Was deception a common practice? Were their addictions that were never talked about but always present? Prayerfully consider how the broken patterns of your family tree affected you spiritually.
A healthy spiritual life brings joy that is unparalleled, but it does require an investment. The good news is that, for centuries, followers of Jesus have invested in their relationship with Christ. By focusing on your spiritual health and fitness and making space in your life for healthy spiritual practices, you can as well.
Article written by: Becky Harling
Becky Harling is a best-selling author and popular speaker at conferences, retreats and other events. Her life experience as a pastor’s wife, missionary, women’s ministries director, and survivor of breast cancer and childhood sexual abuse all bring depth and realism to her message - one of hope and healing. Her newest book is Listen Well, Lead Better. Visit beckyharling.com.