If there is one thing this global pandemic has taught us, it is the value of discipline. We were forced to remain sequestered at home, to socially distance and otherwise keep our hands clean as we dealt with Covid-19. Some of these measures are still in place, as we move deeper into 2023 and as new strains of the disease emerge.
In an environment of forced seclusion, many men grew closer to God, closer to our family and, most of all, closer to ourselves - even as the pandemic moves to endemic.
In the process, we have all had to exercise discipline in this tumultuous time in some form – whether financial, relationship or nutritionally.
Discipline also lends to spiritual growth; it is, then, a spiritual undertaking, and it is the most important. Paul writes, "Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is valuable in every way, because it promises life for both the present and the future." (I Timothy 4:8 TEV) We are spiritual beings on a physical journey. All that we become stem from our spiritual discipline – or lack thereof.
Spiritual disciplines are those personal and corporate habits that promote spiritual growth. Here are five dimensions (among many) of a complete spiritual life that men must develop and continue therein.
I use “Bible learning” as opposed to “Bible study” to make the distinction between merely poring over details of a subject and enlivening what we experience in the process. Learn the Bible. Do not just “study” the Bible. Approach the task with a sacredly inquisitive spirit. Learn its history. Connect to the people of the Bible, particularly the leadership marks of men, for often their struggles are not much different than ours.
A man who does not have an active prayer life is like a city without walls. Of the five dimensions mentioned, prayer is without question the most important. Take prayer out of the equation and you have no need for the other four. That is because prayer is the connecting point; it is the fountain from and through which we receive our sustenance. No prayer, no power. Much prayer, much power. Unlimited power!
The pandemic diminished our ability to gather for worship and praise as believers. Many churches adopted a virtual platform as a means for its members to remain connected. While it obviously is not the same as person-to-person interaction, it does provide a means for us to celebrate collectively. Worship is both personal and corporate. We can praise God any where and at any time. We can still lead our families in worship as men. The point is try to remain as connected as possible during this hiatus from corporate worship.
At the opposite end of corporate worship is personal devotion. The two are not mutually exclusive. Silence is our time of reflection and personal praise as men. But sometimes just sitting in silence and reflecting on the goodness of the Creator is an awesome experience. It is also good for your mental and psychological well-being and has been shown to effectively manage resting heart rate and issues with blood pressure. Scripture says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
Over and over, Scripture commands us to write. Habakkuk 2:16 is the most popular example: Write the vision. Make it plain. Believers are instructed to write it down mainly because when we write something down, we tend to develop more emotional affinity and belief with the object of what is written. Journaling is an effective means to developing a vision for our lives. Whether it is a paragraph or a simple line, when you write it down, you increase the likelihood of actualizing what it is you believe.
We are spiritual beings on a physical journey.
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