Every day we see them, promises of a shortcut...of an easy way out or up or around.
It’s so easy to get sucked in. We want to think that things don’t take time or work or perseverance. Because hard work over a long period of time takes discipline…
Discipline is hard and even discouraging and overwhelming, until I sometimes wonder what the point is. But we all do it... We go to work because we want a pay check.
We limit our diets so that we won’t gain weight, or perhaps will lose it.
We lift weights and run laps and complete reps so that our bodies will look the way we want.
But just as easily, we chase fad diets and drink popular health drinks and jump on money making bandwagons…all with the promise of quick and easy with little-to-no work involved.
All the areas of my life that I look back on and am pleased with the growth and progress I see are the result of hard work and perseverance.
…not loop holes and skipping steps.
And I’m beginning to realize that for most good things, there are no shortcuts.
As I’m leaning into this new year and reflecting on the past one, I’m seeing that this is especially true in spiritual growth.
”…train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7b-8
I look at rough edges that are being rounded out…
I look at areas I’m learning to bite my tongue…
I look at things that used to completely derail me with stress...
And the growth I see is a product of years of habit and perseverance.
There are no shortcuts for spiritual growth. We can slow down our spiritual growth, but we can’t speed it up or skip ahead or go around or make it easier.
We won’t get the fruit of a life saturated in Jesus unless we discipline ourselves to actually saturate our lives in Jesus.
And I look back at years past and am thankful. I was training before I knew it. I was disciplining myself without realizing the results that would come. I was building habits and disciplines that have held me close to Jesus in the hard times.
As I reflect on those disciplines, I don’t feel anything but thankfulness.
I don’t feel pride or accomplishment or boastfulness, because I know that the building of those habits in Jesus was so much of His grace and so little of my own wisdom or strength.
It may feel pointless today…
It may seem like useless repetition today…
It may be impossible to see growth or progress today...
But choosing to train myself for godliness is something I’ll never regret. Because, looking back I don’t regret one single Sunday of sitting through church, one sink left full of dishes so I could read God’s Word, one moment of putting aside my schedule to love my neighbor...
And just about this moment is when guilt and condemnation and comparison creep up and threaten to beat my desire back into apathy. So just about this moment is when it’s essential that I remind you and remind me...
You won’t be able to do it on your own. I can’t do it on my own. I haven’t done it on my own.
And I certainly haven’t done it perfectly or easily or beautifully. But looking back through the mistakes and the work and the brokenness, growth has sprung forth, because the mistakes and the failures and the mess ups have just pulled me to the feet of Jesus again and again.
Isn’t that the point anyways? Isn’t that the whole reason Paul tells us to discipline, to train, ourselves for godliness?
Disciplining ourselves for godliness requires that we draw near to Jesus in humility and surrender, because we need His strength to do it, so that He gets the glory for it.
Don’t we all want to be closer to Jesus in 2016…in 2017?
It starts today.
It starts with perseverance and discipline and failing forward by falling into the arms of Jesus, Who has promised to do it in us.
The question is...will we?