When trying to learn something new, we must invest the time needed to be successful. For example, when I was first learning to play bass guitar, I spent hours each day practicing. Soon the results of disciplined practice began to show in my playing, and people began to invite me to play in their band. Great musicians, much better than me, spend hours a day rehearsing with their instruments.
It is the same with athletes. You won't complete a marathon if you haven't disciplined yourself to run for hours. That ability is not given to you. It is earned. Olympic gold medalists have all spent years preparing themselves. Bodybuilders invest years into exercise and eating the right things to encourage their muscles to grow. The list of things people dedicate themselves to is endless, yet, how many will devote the time to grow in faith? Paul said this:
(1 Timothy 4:1–8 NKJV) Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. But reject profane and old wives' fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.
In essence, Paul told Timothy to "train yourself to be godly." It is not that physical exercise is not important. With the rise of obesity, it is more important than ever. Yet, Paul stresses that godliness will benefit us right now and in the age to come, for all eternity. It is investing in something today that will bring rewards for eternity. There is nothing else that compares with that.
What is godliness? The best example would be the one whose worship of God and their faith flows into obedience throughout the week. It becomes love in action. Showing love in the workplace can often be a challenge, as God tends to supply sandpaper to polish our rough edges. Yet, it is necessary for our growth.
Faith grows like a muscle. It needs to be exercised and stretched. As our faith grows, it takes more and more to test it. Strong faith does not falter when it is tested. The Apostle Paul looked forward to his execution by Nero because he was confident of the outcome. He told the believers at Ephesus they would never see him again, waved, and then boarded the ship (Acts 20:38).
Why was Paul so confident when facing arrest, trial, and death? Because the Apostle Paul spent time building himself up in the Holy Spirit. He exercised his spiritual muscles. He put in the time to make his faith grow. Jude wrote this:
(Jude 16–21 NASB) These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage. But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, "In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts."
These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.
Notice those words, last days, mockers, ungodly, divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the spirit. I see all of those every day. Life is like watching an episode of the living dead. Jude said the way to counter this ungodly attitude was to build ourselves up in faith by praying in the Holy Spirit. And to keep ourselves in the love of God while we wait on Jesus to return. The Apostle Paul wrote:
(1 Corinthians 14:18 NASB) I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all;
That is how Paul faced his execution with confidence. He deliberately built himself up in the Holy Spirit, and then he was ready to face tomorrow. Each morning there is encouragement, hope, strength, and peace that can be mined by spending dedicated time in prayer. Sometimes Jesus prayed all night long (Luke 6:12). On the night He was arrested, which He knew was coming, Jesus was praying in the garden (John 18:1).
People may practice guitar, piano, or painting, but who practices faith with the same dedication and diligence? If you desire to grow spiritually, then you will have to put forth some effort. If you want to see something new, then you need to try something different.
You can call it "Intentional Growth," and I am mainly focusing on prayer and reading directly from the Bible or listening to it being read. As Mark Twain so wonderfully put it, "Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint." Go straight to the source and allow the Holy Spirit to show you something new. It's ok if you don't understand half of it. The part that you do understand will begin to change you and bring your spirit new life.
April Challenge: For those interested, I plan to do a Daniel fast for the month of April. I have done this each year since 2012. We usually tell no-one about our fasting and do it in secret. Still, this time, I believe the Lord wants me to invite the Refreshing Hope members to participate with us in a community fast. To learn, to grow, to stretch that faith muscle, and encourage each other. To share our recipes, as well as a shared list of prayer requests.
For thirty consecutive days, I plan to get up a little earlier than usual. To go into my room here, shut the door, put on some instrumental soaking music, set a timer on my phone for 30 minutes, and pray and read scripture until it is done. Then I will write whatever has come to me during that time.
We plan to do a vegan-type fast and give up meat, dairy, and coffee for the month. Our diet will mostly be water, vegetables, bread, and tea. We have learned to make things like a mean vegan chili and portobello mushroom burgers on the grill. So it is not the end of the world. It is a very healthy and cleansing way to fast and detox your body. Also, it has a set beginning and end. It is not forever.
It will be a month of intentional growth, and I plan to see significant gains in spiritual strength. Just as when I played bass guitar for hours a day and grew better, there was a season when I prayed for two to three hours a day in the Spirit. Within six months, I was in full-time ministry. He used me to pray Refreshing Hope into existence, and it changed our life. It can change yours.
You can pray this with me if you like:
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for Your precious Word. Please guide me and give me a clear vision for what You have in store for me. I want more of You in my life. I want to draw closer to You and to grow in my faith. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen!Read more at: www.refreshinghope.org