“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him,” teaches popular American preacher, John Piper. Amen! Don’t we all long to be fully satisfied in God and God alone? But what about when we don’t feel satisfied? What about when we feel tired, unmotivated, or distant?
Those times are why spiritual disciplines are so important. Spiritual disciplines are good and God-honoring, regardless of how we feel about doing them. Discipline keeps us on track when we lose motivation and it is necessary for our growth as Christians.
Here are five spiritual disciplines that have been helpful in keeping me focused on God, even when motivation is lacking.
1. Bible Reading
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
God has prepared work for His people, and this verse explains that God-given scripture is the very way that God prepares each of us for that work. God is constantly working to bring people to Himself, and He allows us Christians to be a part of that in varying ways. We might not always have a clear and specific picture of exactly how God plans to use us, but the Bible will prepare us with knowledge and understanding so we are ready for whatever it is that God calls us to.
I go through phases where I read heavy sections and lots of text, but it’s also been helpful for me to slow down, read smaller portions, and leave time to ponder and reflect on it. Journaling during or after reading also helps me process and retain what I read. Instead of approaching this time with expectations for exciting new revelations, I like to approach it as a time set aside to get to know my Father better. After all, our faith is based on a relationship with God, and we can’t have good relationships with people we do not spend meaningful time with.
Prayer is another way to spend quality time with God. God is holy and perfect. The mere fact that we are allowed to come before Him and be heard is truly amazing. Praise Him for it! And not only does God allow us to pray to Him, we can pray to Him with great boldness.
When David prays for forgiveness after murdering a man for his wife, he asks God to forgive him in accordance with God’s unfailing love and compassion (Psalm 51:1). In Exodus 32, after God’s people have committed a great sin by making a golden idol to worship, Moses’ plea for saving the people banks on one thing: God’s promises. God promised Abraham that he would make his descendants (Israel) numerous, and God promised them a land for their inheritance. None of these promises could be fulfilled if God completely destroyed his people, and when Moses called on these promises, God relented (Exodus 32:11-14).
Identifying God’s promises has helped me immensely in prayer. In doing so, I can pray with more confidence for Him to follow through on them. . . not because I, or anyone, is deserving of the promise, but because God made the promise and he will follow-through on it.
A close friend of mine is currently struggling with postpartum anxiety. As I pray for her, I reflect on Matthew 6:25-34, which illustrates how well God cares for all of His creation (even the birds and flowers!), and explains that because of this, we should not be anxious. The momentum of my prayer for my friend is rooted in the knowledge that God will care for her, as she is of even greater value to Him than any bird or lily flower. Holding to God’s promises that He makes in scripture helps me to pray with greater confidence and boldness.
In Deuteronomy, God’s people are told that they were caused to be hungry, that they would learn that they are sustained not by man’s bread, but by God’s word alone (Deuteronomy 8:3). In the New Testament, Jesus makes an assumption that His followers practice fasting, since He tells them, “when you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do. . . ” and “when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting. . . ” (Matthew 6:16-17, emphasis added).
We practice fasting so that we can spend time separated from man’s sustenance, and seek God’s instead. With every stomach groan, as my body calls out for man’s food, I am reminded that God alone created and God alone sustains me. This particularly helps me focus when I need to pray for or about a specific person or decision in life. Every stomach rumbling reminds me that God is the one I should seek for everything I need, including sustenance and direction.
Just as we should learn to depend on God instead of food for sustenance, we must also fight against the tendency to rely on money’s security over God’s provision. Psalm 50:10 says that every cattle on a thousand hills belongs to God. None of what we “earn” is truly ours. Every blessing comes from God. Tithing helps train us to hold what we have with open hands.
Recently, my husband and I felt compelled to give our car away to a man at church who had recently crashed his. Another family has been unemployed and falling behind on finances, and we felt called to give of “our” savings to help them. I use quotations for “our” because we believe it wasn’t our car or our money to keep. God allowed us to be stewards for a time, but we had to be willing to give when God called us to.
By practicing tithing and keeping an open hand, we will be more prepared to obey God when He calls us to give above and beyond what we are comfortable with, and so give graciously of all that we have (be it time, money, or possessions).
5. Verse Memorization
As a child in Sunday school, I memorized verses for stickers and affirmation from my teacher. I developed a distaste for the culture around it, because I saw verses taken out of context and twisted to support claims people make.
Perhaps people will always twist Scripture for their own purposes, but if we are to obediently meditate on God’s law day and night (Psalm 1:2), then we have to know the law we are to meditate on. Memorize scripture, know its context, and meditate on it.
I heard a story once of a man who was jailed in a foreign country for being a Christian. He was not allowed to have a Bible. For 20 years, the only Word of God he had was that which he had hidden in his heart, and could write out while he was imprisoned. What kind of Bible would we have if the only scripture available was the scripture we had memorized?
God convicted me of my neglect to commit verses to memory, and in response I am now practicing hiding His word in my heart (Psalm 119:11) through scripture memorization. I wasn’t sure where to start, and a friend recommended a verse memorization app created by Desiring God. It’s been really helpful for keeping me motivated and accountable.
There are many resources that will help you as you journey through all of these spiritual disciplines. The internet is an amazing resource, and it can be used for good. I encourage you to not get too wrapped up in one specific way of following any of these disciplines. If you feel discouraged or grow weary, change up how you’re participating, but don’t stop altogether.
All of these disciplines help us to grow as Christians. That doesn’t mean we’ll always feel the growth. There are times where we must persevere, because in addition to glorifying God through our satisfaction and joy in Him, we also love God by obedience to His commands (1 John 5:3). And through our dry seasons, we trust that God will not stop “equipp[ing] us for every good work.”