I tried silence…it was really, really hard.
As part of my Master of Divinity degree, I had to take a class on Spiritual Disciplines. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I’ve always been honest and transparent in my blog: I hated it at first. It seemed so artificial to have to go through this stuff that seemed so “mystical” and “magical”.
Part of our assignment was to pick a spiritual discipline and try it for a specified amount of time and report on it. I chose silence because I like to talk.
And it was difficult…really, really difficult. The idea was to turn that attention to God in those moments. In those moments of putting our bodies and attitudes into submission, we would grow closer to God.
It was a strain to save my voice. And I wanted to quit. But I pressed on to finish.
I think the Apostle Paul would agree that it did me good. We read in 1 Timothy 4:9-10
9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. 10 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.
1 Timothy 4:9-10, NIV
These two verses are couched in the paragraph ranging from 1 Timothy 4:6-10. The subject is verse 8: “…physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” This is Paul’s trustworthy saying inspired by the Holy Spirit.
It is this dual nature of our spiritual formation Paul now concludes with: “that is why we labor and strive”. The word Paul uses for “labor” (in Greek, the original language of the New Testament) indicates grueling work sapping energy. And in this grueling work sapping energy we “strive”. That is to say, we push ourselves through the obstacles across the finish line—like an athlete.
And why would we add to the challenge of living with this kind of grueling work sapping energy as we push ourselves through the obstacles across the finish line?
Because it is “in the living God, who is the Savior of all people” where our hope is built. Biblical hope is not wishful thinking (like “I hope I get a new car”). Oh no, my brother or sister in Jesus, Biblical hope is living now in the truth of what we will receive in Heaven.
But living in the hope of this truth while engaging in this kind of grueling work sapping energy as we push ourselves through the obstacles across the finish line is a matter of discipline. Spiritual discipline. Or as I like to say, Spiritual Formation.
Spiritual formation is our intentional spiritual direction from our sinful humanity towards the Lord’s holiness. While it takes many forms, 1 Timothy 4:9-10 takes us to the issues surrounding character.
Who we are now does not have to be
who we always will be.
While we will never be done with sin this side of Heaven, we press towards the finish line. We don’t wallow in our sin, we walk through it.
This week, might I suggest we focus our personal worship time of prayer, Bible study, worship service attendance, small group attendance, and obedience of Scripture on seeking the Holy Spirit’s power to develop our character more into His image?
Our hope of Heaven and the hope the world desperately needs is written across the billboards of our character. The world is looking at us, as professed Christians, to determine if Jesus can actually change them.
By submitting ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, we strain to become more like Him. But our labor and striving aren’t in vain because as we change we are proving to the world that Jesus really does save.
Let’s connect! I’ve set up a Facebook account where I’m now sharing my blogs, podcasts, messages, and things I hope help you on the journey.
Interested in more like this? Consider Joel’s book: 31 Days of Spiritual Wisdom: A Month in the Proverbs. Moving through a selection of verses from a chapter of Proverbs for every day of the month, Joel walks readers through a journey of spiritual formation applicable to everyday life. The goal? Knowing how to apply the wisdom of Scripture so we grow in our faith, become wiser, and show the world the life-changing power of Jesus.