Tools for training
Spiritual disciplines have gotten some bad press. We often see them as oughts and shoulds rather than invitations and opportunities. They can represent one more chore on our perceived list to please Christ.
But the disciplines or as they are sometimes called the exercises or practices are actually training tools for us to participate with God in the work he wants to do in us. These practices are not about earning God’s favor, but about cooperating with God in his work as he creates in us the very nature of Christ.
Practicing these tools helps me respond differently to familiar situations. Patience is a character trait I would like to acquire. Jesus exhibited this trait throughout his life on earth. He waited for the Father’s direction and for the Father’s timing. Spending many years in his father’s carpentry shop does not seem to us a good use of resources, but God had a plan for Christ that involved waiting for the right time to begin his ministry.
I am aware that an attitude of hurry is not beneficial to my goal of acquiring the character of Christ. In fact, living with hurry does me more harm than good as I am tempted to have my own way, be first, and so forth. These qualities might be valued in this society, but they are not a part of kingdom living.
The other day we went to lunch after church. I was hungry and tired. I wanted my food now. Cranky or even crabby would have described the status of my heart. I was tempted to whine and complain. At the same time I was aware of my current character, I was aware of another desire. I want to practice kingdom living as I live like Christ. I then saw the situation as an invitation and opportunity to wait with a pleasant attitude by not complaining that the food wasn’t here, and by focusing on others at the table rather than myself.
I find in the little situations of ordinary life God trains me in a different nature, another way of living. These small circumstances add up as I make intentional choices. I need the repetition. Character grows as I continue to choose to live as Christ does.