This past Sunday I had the opportunity to preach at a local church. I love it when these opportunities come along. Tip: if ever you lack the motivation to pray/study your Bible, commit to preaching one Sunday. Works for me every time. Here’s my sermon “4 Steps to Jump Start Your Spiritual Life” in blog format:
1. Plow your field
Interestingly, the best way to get motivated to do something is to….do something. For example: Let’s say that you are having trouble getting motivated to do the dishes. I’ve found that, if I commit to working on the dishes for only 5 minutes, I will usually end up finishing the entire load. Scientific studies have backed up this finding. Action breeds more action. To paraphrase Dave Ramsey: there’s a great place to go when you’re broke and out of a job: to work!
As Christians, how do we “work”? There are a ton of great ideas in Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline. Here’s Foster’s basic premise: “A farmer is helpless to grow grain. All that he can do is provide the right conditions for the growing of the grain.” When you think about it, doctors are in the same predicament as farmers-they are helpless to heal anyone. All that a doctor can do is provide optimal conditions for the body to heal itself. God grows the grain. God heals the body. In his book, Foster gives different methods for “plowing your field”. These plowing methods include praying, studying, worshiping, fasting, meditating, serving, etc. Surprisingly, Foster does not mention the method of screaming at people about repentance/Hell via a megaphone on a street corner. Perhaps he’ll write a sequel…but, I digress. Anyhow, I won’t expound upon the plowing methods here. I’ll let you read the book-if you are so inclined. Plow your field. Provide optimal conditions for God to grow you.
I am very proud of my kids. I have great kids. They are polite. They say “yes ma’am” and “yes sir”. They say “please” and “thank you”. We only have to tell them once to exit the play area of McDonald’s. I have great kids….BUT….if one of our precious little ones misses a nap time, a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde situation occurs. There is much screaming. There is much weeping and gnashing of teeth. There is much uncivil disobedience. I can only barricade myself in a closet and hope for the best. Nap times are important with little kids. IMPORTANT.
It always seemed strange to me that “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” was important enough to be included in the 10 commandments. Now that I have kids, I understand one reason why. God knew that we humans, without rest, do despicable things. Step 2: REST. The Sabbath is like a God-ordered nap time for grownups. Take a break. Honor the Sabbath. Stop working so much. Spend time with your family. Take time to work on step one. Rest.
3. Get the right people on your boat
Every secular study of success that I have looked at finds the following: successful people surround themselves with successful people whom they trust. Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, calls this “getting the right people on the bus.” The point: there is much wisdom to be gained from the input of others who see the world from a different perspective. Surrounding yourself with others is important for success in any area of life.
Matthew 8:23-27. When the storms of life come, you want the guy on your boat who can calm said storms. You want the guy who can heal the sick. You want the guy who will stand up to the unjust. You want people like Jesus on your boat. Surround yourself with people like Jesus. These are the right people to have on your boat.
4. Get the wrong people off of your boat
Read the story of Jesus calming the storm again. Now read the story of Jonah in Jonah 1. Oddly similar, aren’t they? In both cases, the man claiming to be Godly falls asleep. In both cases the Godly man is awoken to shouts of “WHAT DO WE DO?!” In one case, the storm is calmed by awaking the “Godly” man and tossing him out of the boat (because he is literally running away from God). In the other case, the storm is calmed by awaking the Godly man who then commands the seas. The point: the storms of our lives only get worse when we allow people in our inner circle who are running away from God. The only way to calm the storm is to throw them out. Sounds harsh…but think about what happens to Jonah. The crew throws Jonah out-believing that they are killing him (didn’t even toss the guy a life raft). What they are doing, however, is turning him over to God for God to work a miracle and transform him.
Sometimes, there are so-called “Christians” in our lives who desperately need a “Jonah moment”…a rebelious 21-year-old son who lives with his parents…a drug addict friend…an abusive boyfriend. “Christians” who claim to be of God, but who are running away from God, create storms wherever they go. If Matthew 18:15-17 doesn’t work with them, could we be keeping them from a transformational “Jonah moment” by keeping them on our boats?
Get the wrong people off of your boat. Give these people the opportunity to have a “Jonah moment”. Allow God to transform them in ways that we cannot begin to imagine. Surround yourself with people who calm storms rather than create them.
So, there you have it. Jump start your spiritual life. Plow your field. Rest. Get the right people on your boat. Get the wrong people off of your boat. Watch God move.