So, if I’m going to ask the question, “What gets you motivated to read and study your Bible, pray, and take your faith in Jesus seriously?”…then it’s fair game for you to ask me the same question.
And some of you did.
Here’s my best attempt at an answer. I offer these, not as some kind of formula for spiritual maturity or three-step plan to fix your pursuit of getting deeper. They are just some perspectives that helped me along my way, in no particular order. Maybe some of them will be good for you.
One…Before you can ever get to a WHAT, you’ve got to answer WHY. Why you want, or need, to do something is the necessary prerequisite to any kind of plan moving forward. Why do you even want to study the Bible? Why is it important for you to pray? I’m not talking about the reasons you think you should or that you have been told you should. I’m talking about the real “why” in your heart. What’s driving you to even WANT to do this? You gotta have an answer that will sustain you.
Two...This is tied to the first one. In our spiritual journey, maturity really began for me when my motivation moved from “I SHOULD read my Bible” to “I NEED to read my Bible.” That slowly became true for all of my spiritual disciplines. Living in the realm of “should” is a recipe for failure. It’s the ultimate trap door. The habit of saying we SHOULD do something gives a false sense of purpose…without ever having to do it. It’s how we con ourselves, or even others, into believing we might actually get around to doing it. But we seldom do. “Should” needs to be removed from our vocabulary. Permanently.
Three…There’s no substitute for getting in a group that studies the Bible together. The value of the fellowship, comradery, inspiration, and real life accountability cannot be overstated.
Four…Put yourself in positions where you absolutely can’t make it without praying or turning to God’s word. It might sound pretty shallow, but the truth is, most everything we do can be done without praying or studying the Bible. So why not live a little closer to the edge? Why not exercise your faith and get a little closer to the frontline of the spiritual war going on? Jesus actually said to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow. The more we do that, the more we will need him to sustain us. Think about it.
Five…I spent a lot of time in my younger years reducing my spiritual life to formulas. I took the advice of others and tried to develop daily and weekly routines for prayer and Bible study. I practiced with set times and predictable locations. I bought books and listened to speakers that promoted programs and methods and systems to try and develop patterns of spiritual discipline in my life. Sometimes, it worked for a while, but usually produced little long-term change. I learned it’s okay to use tools for a while. They might help. But they might not…and that’s okay.
Six…Remember, the goal is not to have a successful Bible study or an effective prayer life or be Zen-master of the spiritual disciplines. The goal is simply to know Jesus better and follow daily in his footsteps. The Bible became a portal into the mind and heart of Jesus, instead of a textbook and prayer ceased to be a way for me to get what I want and became a practice of becoming aware of the presence of God as a go about my daily routines. Those two things became game changers for me.
Seven…This may seem out of place here, but it has become central to me. I was raised to believe there was kind of a division between my “church” life and the rest of my life. God was given a slice of my pie (church attendance, youth group, Bible study, prayer, etc…) and the rest of the pie was everything else. I was led to believe there was a division between the sacred things and the secular, or worldly, things. Once I learned that was a bunch of baloney, I began to see Bible study and prayer as just normal parts of my life and NOT some special, “spiritual” slice of the pie.
Eight…I know this may sound blasphemous to some, but once I stopped putting pressure on myself to read/study so much of the Bible and pray for a certain (long) length of time, things began to change. I know what all the super saints do…throughout history and over the course of my life. They are amazing. They got up at 3:00am to study. They lived on mountain tops. They spent all night in prayer closets. They’ve read the whole Bible…cover to cover…in the original languages…multiple times. It’s a high bar. Sometimes an impossible bar. But that bar is not in the Bible. (pause). Yeah. That’s the sound of grace and peace in my soul.
Nine…Again, this is connected to the previous one. I’ve stopped comparing myself to others. I never win anyway. There is no human standard of excellence for spiritual maturity. Just a bunch of pilgrims making their way home. Some are slower. Some are faster. And it’s not a sprint, turtles. It’s not a sprint.
Ten…This won’t apply to everybody, but it will to some. One of the most tangible, practical, daily, in-my-face motivations for getting, and keeping, my spiritual act together were my boys. And they still are. I know I am not responsible for my kids’ faith. That’s theirs. One day, they will stand before God on their own, without my help. But I was, and continue to be, deeply aware of my words and example for them. I could never expect, or even hope for them to experience something I wouldn’t, or didn’t, experience for myself. That motivation will never leave. Ever.
So. There you go.
Do you have any more to add?