How do we develop what is commonly known as the spiritual disciplines (scary word, that) in our personal lives? The solution does not seem to be to simply grit our teeth and try harder. (At least it has never worked for me). And even if we succeed, the whole thing can become a dry duty rather than a passion (Psalms 19:9,10; 37:3-5; 42:1,2; 119:97-104). Therefore, while I do not want to minimize the need for self-control (we all have a lazy streak), I do want to ask where we get the motivation to make these disciplines a part of our life.
I believe one of the basic things that will motivate us in this is how we view our God. First of all, He is the God who loved us enough that, though we were hostile to Him (Romans 3:10-18, 23; Ephesians 2:1-3; Isaiah 64:6), God redeemed us at a great cost (Romans 5:6-10; John 3:16-18; Ephesians 2:4-9). Also, as a result of our accepting this, we know God and can grow to know Him more (John 17:3; Jeremiah 9:23,24; Colossians 1:10). We are His children (John 1:12,13), His friends (John 15:14,15), and His future bride (2 Corinthians 11:2,3). Furthermore, He is always with us to help us (Matthew 28:20, 18:20; Isaiah 41:10) and is at work within us to transform us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13). If this is true, if the God who put the stars in place (Isaiah 40:12-26) was willing to pay an incredible price (Romans 8:32) so that we can have a relationship with Him both now and through all eternity (John 17:24-26), should we not reciprocate by seeking to know Him in return?
For this is what the spiritual disciplines are about: learning to know God. Because no relationship can grow without communication. And it is here, I think, the real difficulty with these disciplines frequently develops. I think we often have a fear of God becoming too real in our lives. Sometimes this comes from a distorted idea of God; we see Him as someone who is waiting to whack us if we get just a little out of line. Also, if I let God become to real to me He might require of me something I am not willing to give. But I think the most basic problem I see in myself is pride. I want to believe I can run my own life. Or I might be willing to admit I need God, but only for emergencies. But if Jesus who was the God-Man needed prayer (Luke 6:12), who am I to think I can do without it? The bottom line comes--are we willing to trust God for all of life? And if we are willing to realize that the one who broke the power of sin and death is a loving Father who can aid and direct us in all the details of life, although we all struggle with laziness, we can approach the spiritual disciplines in a new light.