1Ti 4:7-8 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather 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.
In my last post, I shared some thoughts on the Christian life, and our mission as soldiers. We, however, are not soldiers of an earthly war, fighting against flesh and blood with weapons of a physical nature. We are soldiers of a wholly different sort, involved in a spiritual warfare, against a spiritual enemy who has a hunger to devour human souls. We are soldiers in the army of the Lord. This militaristic notion may, at first thought, offend the champion of peace, it may tune a sour note, but this mission, this army, IS an army of peace. You and I, brother and sister, are carrying out the earthly work of a merciful Savior by sharing His gospel of peace, so that by our soldiering, we might see some saved to peace with God.
This notion of Christians as soldiers comes from Ephesians Chapter 6, wherein Paul compares the Christian to a soldier in battle with the necessity to take up the armor of the Lord in order to defend ourselves against Satan, and faithfully carry forth the Word of the Lord. I mentioned last time that we, as soldiers, must be prepared for battle. A soldier must first and foremost be strong in the Lord as Paul says in Ephesians 6:10-1 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. The Christian soldier needs to be stout in heart – for what good does it do a soldier to wield a weapon of warfare if he is too timid, or afraid to use it? A Christian soldier needs to be strong for suffering – we have been assured by Jesus Himself that we will not live easy, peaceable lives if we take up the cross and follow Him. Jesus said in Mark 8:34-36 …“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
To our benefit, though, in our weakness, He is strong; when we falter, he is faithful to remain steadfast for us; when we fail, God remains victorious. We have a strong and mighty God who has given us the tools necessary, that we might be equipped for the fight, equipped for the struggle and pain of battle. For when we rely in HIS strength, we are truly strong. First and foremost, then, God has given us Himself, for He resides in every believer by His Holy Spirit, sent to empower us, and seal us for the day of Christ’s return. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit of THE living God, we have God most High dwelling within us in all His power and might, equipping us for victory in battle! So, then, empowered by the spirit, how do we train? What regimen lends itself as training for strength in the Lord? The answer: spiritual disciplines.
Discipline is defined as – training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior. Therefore, spiritual disciplines can be defined as – training expected to produce spiritual maturity, and Christian action for the gospel of Christ. Many years ago I came across a book by Donald Whitney titled Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, in which Whitney lists out nine spiritual disciplines which Christians ought to practice: Prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, stewardship, fasting, silence and solitude, journalism, and learning. These disciplines, biblical in nature, are intended to produce maturity in the Christian, though certainly not touted as, nor intended as a means of righteousness before God. Spiritual disciplines are the training regimen for the Christian soldier, intended to produce readiness for the daily battle. In favor of a shorter blog series, I want to look at just a couple of these disciplines.
2 Chronicles 6:29-31 Whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing his own affliction and his own sorrow and stretching out his hands toward this house, then hear from heaven your dwelling place and forgive and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways, for you, you only, know the hearts of the children of mankind, that they may fear you and walk in your ways all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers.
Prayer is our direct line of communication with the Creator of the heavens and the earth. The Father of creation, Lord of all, desires to communicate with you and I, individually. He desires to hear our pleas, our joys, sorrows, and needs, He desires personal communication with those He has created. What a blessing! How often have I (or we) decided I’m too busy to give time to my prayer life? How often have I promised to pray for a brother or sister in Christ, and walked away and in absent mindedness never made intercession? Yet our Lord desires to hear our voices lifted to him! We have been granted unfettered access to the throne room of God. Again it says in Philippians:
Philippians 4:6-7 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
All too often we pass hours in angst, vexing over our troubles, and yet God has given us a clear solution to our woes: lift them to Him and His peace, which surpasses all worldly understanding, which can cover a multitude of trials and tribulations, will guard our hearts and minds. What a far better solution!
I am reminded of a meme I’ve seen floating around on Facebook that says something to the effect of: The best of friends can go years without speaking and never question the friendship. Nonsense! The best of friends don’t go years without speaking, otherwise they wouldn’t be the best of friends! The closest friends communicate often, which begs the question, if someone looked into your communication with God, what type of friendship would they conclude you have? How’s your prayer life? For battles of Christian warfare are hard fought and won on the knees of a prostrate soldier.
1 Chronicles 16:23-31 Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place. Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength! Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth; yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”
The Lord, majestic creator, is worthy of our highest praise! In 1 Chronicles we are told to ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. I think the words here were carefully chosen. All to often we tend to imply, in our language, or thought, we glorify God by worshiping Him, or by carrying out His righteous work here on earth, but the truth is, it is impossible to give glory to God. All glory is already His, he can neither be more glorious or less glorious than he already is, or has ever been because of His immutable nature. The glory of our work for God is already His glory, we are commanded to ascribe, or attribute, this glory to Him. We should therefore acknowledge that the glory of our lives, and our worship, is His glory, not our own.
As we worship the Lord, reminding ourselves of His great worth, work, faithfulness, and provision we will be drawn ever nearer to Him, and encouraged all the more to have the confidence to step out, in faith, into the work He calls us to, trusting that God will uphold us, sustain us, and provide for the work at hand.
I could, and would share on evangelism, fasting, serving, and others, though I fear this post would turn into a book, of which there is already one written on these topics! So, if you’re interested in learning more about spiritual disciplines, I recommend you get Whitney’s book. I was able to pick it up for just over $9 on a reputable website with 2-day delivery.
Let me leave you with this thought: Every Christian prepares for battle – some prepare for defeat by disregarding the training necessary to face the battle, others prepare for victory in Christ Jesus as they condition themselves with the training of a good Christian steward. What, dear friend, are you preparing for?