by Rubel Shelly
Published in LoveLines (Jan. 8, 1997)
The Spiritual Disciplines
Ever wish you had the golf game of Lee Trevino or Tiger Woods? Did you ever wonder what the feeling would be if you drilled the championship basket at the NCAAs? Or maybe youíve watched a movie and envisioned yourself in the starring role. Most of us have entertained such fantasies at one time or another.
Youíve probably done the same thing in your spiritual life. Ever see someone walk away from an attempted seduction by drugs, sex, or money and wonder what you would do in the same situation? Ever tell a friend you wish you had the prayer life or Bible knowledge of some mature Christian you know? Or maybe youíre worrying about how to deal with financial problems or growing old and dying.
When we watch star athletes or mature Christians function, we sometimes forget what lies behind the little glimpse we get. The golfer who sinks the $800,000 putt has spent thousands of hours on a putting green to get his stroke right. The actress on screen has trained for years, tediously memorized every line, and rehearsed endlessly. The big moment doesnít come without the tedium of daily work at oneís craft.
Has it ever dawned on you that spiritual life is no different? Jesus could quote Scripture to Satan in the wilderness temptation because he lived with it in regular synagogue study and personal meditation. He could forgive the taunting mob on the day of his crucifixion because he dealt graciously with people every day.
Skilled surgeons, superstar athletes, and faithful disciples have the same thing in common: personal discipline in their fields of expertise. They could not do the spectacular things without sometimes-tedious practice. The extra hours of devotion to behind-the-scenes, non-glamorous training makes them excel when others fade.
If you want your faith to endure the test, you have to train. Your daily exercise in Bible reading, prayer, and waiting before God get you ready for a crisis time. Donít be surprised if you collapse on the course if you are not training daily.
If you want to model Christís holiness to your children or coworkers, you have to discipline yourself in the "little things" of truthfulness, pure speech, and respectful treatment of others. These are the daily habits that give you strength for the great test you will face someday.
What you do when put "on the spot" is most often what has become second nature to you when you are not in the spotlight. Crisis, opportunity, or persecution simply brings what is habitual for you into the full view of others.
So if youíve ever wondered what people mean who talk about spiritual disciplines and if youíve been curious about the difference they might make in your life, now you know. And now you may have some important decisions to make.
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