Clarity of Spiritual Awakening

exerciseContinued from here.

As long as we are interacting with the world using our physical senses, we are never going to act and react in a Christlike manner. We need to see our circumstances through a spiritual lens, and that is only going to happen if you are developing your spiritual muscles. This happens by engaging in spiritual disciplines, such as the seven fundamental practices. Following God requires discipline. As long as you live your life based upon what you feel, you will never be spiritually victorious because our feelings flow out of our thoughts. When our thoughts are aligned with God through engaging in spiritual disciplines, positive feelings flow out. Otherwise, our feelings are going to reflect the state of a mind that is not in alignment with God, resulting in negative feelings. Reacting to those negative feelings kicks off a downward spiral that can be challenging to stop.

You are not going to develop spiritual muscles by accident. Because we live in a fallen world and inhabit bodies controlled by our sinful nature, we have only two options: (1) engage in spiritual disciplines to align our thinking and behavior with God; or (2) choose not to engage in spiritual disciplines and allow our thinking and behavior to align with our sinful nature.

Think about the body of a disciplined athlete and contrast it with the body of a couch potato. The couch potato may wish and pray for an athlete’s physique, but he’s never going to get it by lounging on a couch. If he wants the toned body of an athlete, then he must discipline himself to do what an athlete does. An athlete also finds the temptation of lounging around on a couch appealing. However, he has decided that pushing through that desire and disciplining himself to build his muscles is worth the sacrifice.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running on a treadmill. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Building Spiritual Muscles

barbellContinued from here.

The way to develop strong muscles is to first break them down. When I do bicep curls, I am breaking down the muscle in my biceps, and this process causes short-term physical discomfort. If I push myself particularly hard, I might feel soreness for a couple of days. As my bicep muscles build themselves back up, they grow back stronger than when they were broken down because they know more strength is needed to withstand the pressure that was previously placed upon them.

The same concept applies spiritually, assuming I chose to view the circumstances in my physical life as a spiritual workout. Using the example of developing patience, each time someone does something annoying, I have a choice – I can react using my physical nature by fighting back, or I can choose a spiritual reaction of meekness: bridling my kneejerk reaction and choosing to extend grace rather than anger.

My teenage son recently did something that annoyed me while driving (he has his learner’s permit), and I was tired, so my initial reaction flowed out of the physical realm. I saw the potential danger, particularly while he was behind the wheel, and did not react in a patient or kind way. He reacted to my physical response, and things could have spiraled out of control quickly. Thankfully, I have been exercising my muscles for patience for a long time, so I was able to rein in my reaction and not do the dance of one-upping each other in our anger. Instead, I was able to de-escalate the situation so that we were soon laughing and no longer angry. I even humbled myself to apologize for my crankiness and got a very rare hug from my son!

I would not have been able to react this way (particularly when tired) had I not been exercising the spiritual muscle of patience. In the moment, I needed to see a bigger picture. The conflict with my son really wasn’t about the words we were using. Spiritual unity is more important than “being right” and is a much more effective tool in redirecting behavior than seeking to dominate someone else using physical words.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace lifting a barbell. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Spiritually Asleep

sleepContinued from here.

I spent decades of my life as a sleeping walking Christian. I went through the motions of Christianity – said my nightly prayers, read my Bible, went to church and Bible study, etc. However, I lived my life based on what I could see. I was asleep to the spiritual realities that affected the physical world around me.

For example, if I had a conflict with someone, I only saw the physical aspects of it. I saw my way as “right” and the other person’s way as “wrong.” I had physical tools I could use to attempt to manipulate the person or situation into bending to my will. I was asleep to the reality that personal conflict is a physical manifestation of a deeper spiritual issue.

One possible spiritual cause of conflict in a relationship is spiritual attack. For example, let’s say I prayed for God to help me develop more patience. Suddenly, I find cranky people all around me who seem to believe I am the best receptacle for their emotional discomfort. While a person is speaking words that cause a rise of frustration in me, the actual cause of the person speaking those words is taking place in the spiritual realm. The enemy sees that I am seeking to transform into Christ’s image in this area, so he stirs the pot, pulling strings to get people around me to find me annoying and behave negatively toward me.

Meanwhile, God knows that the only way for His child to develop patience is to be placed into situations requiring it. So, he stands back and permits the enemy to stir the pot, giving the child the opportunity to develop this truth. I firmly believe that the reason God allows spiritual attack into our lives is so we can only find relief through transforming into Christ’s image. He allows the discomfort to help shape us into who we need to be. As we make the transformation, the physical world loses its power, and we are able to walk victoriously in situations that once challenged us.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sleeping on the letters “ZZZZZ.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Spiritual Awakening

Priscilla Shirer has written a 90-day devotional entitled Awaken: 90 Days with the God who Speaks, which includes spiritual reflections that come to her as she goes about her day-to-day life. The title “Awaken” is appropriate for these reflections because each time something in the physical world teaches us something about our spiritual journey, we are gradually awakening to the truth of God.

The Bible uses the term “sleep” for someone who is lulled into believing that the physical world is all there is. By contrast, those who are “awake” view the physical world through the lens of the spiritual:

But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:
‘Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.’ ~ Eph. 5:13-14

So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. ~ 1 Thes. 5:6-10

The theme of being “awake” versus “asleep” is woven into scripture, and it’s not talking about physical sleep. Thus, you and I might be sleepwalking through our lives, lulled into believing that what we can see and touch is all there is. What does it mean to be awake versus asleep spiritually? That’s the focus of the blog this week.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Awaken: 90 Days with the God who Speaks. Courtesy Amazon.]