Updated: Apr 18, 2020
The Lenten season is a good time to reflect on spiritual discipline. The fact is that you won’t always want to pray. Do it anyway. You won’t always want to read the Bible. Do it anyway. You may wonder, “Doesn’t the value of prayer and Scripture engagement come primarily through active, eager engagement? How useful are prayer and Bible reading if you do them with ambivalence or, worse, irritation?” Simply stated, these are your spiritual sit-ups. Yes, eager engagement in prayer and Bible reading may yield great fruit, but there’s a reason people call these practices “disciplines.” I’m reminded of Sunday mornings when my mom would insist that I go to church when all I really wanted to do was sleep in. Yes, a church service in which I engaged happily was probably valuable in a way the kicking-and-screaming Sunday mornings weren’t, but there’s also great value in the discipline of engaging in corporate worship with the GCBC fellowship of believers every single week, regardless of your temporary preferences and frustrations. We need to cultivate spiritual disciplines through habit and repetition because sin is repetitious in nature. Some specific temptations haven’t plagued me in years, but I battle others every single day. We aren’t setting up battlements to guard against sporadic attacks; our besetting sins engage in an unrelenting barrage. Perhaps we grow so accustomed to the presence of these temptations that they fade into a dull background static we try to ignore. This is exactly why regular prayer, Scripture reading, and other disciplines must become “spiritual sit-ups,” routines that may not always be fun or exciting but become ingrained in our lives to the point where we can’t imagine a day going by without them. What does it look like to shepherd people who continue sinning, despite our best pastoral efforts? What might it look like to admit and address our own persistent battles with temptations big and small? Accountability, prayer, counseling, fasting, confession, and other practices are valuable disciplines for persistent sinners in our church, and they’re good advice for all of us, too. Repetitive disciplines may require great time, energy, and patience, but they’re an outpouring of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Seek Him first (Matt. 6:33). Remember, where there is little struggle there is little strength.