Dallas Willard is one of my favorite authors on living as a Christian. One of Willard’s primary concerns is the disciplines of the Christian life, what we often call the spiritual disciplines. Willard often points out that when we are trying to live as a Christian, we try harder as though our effort is somehow going to be enough to enable us to live in this supernatural way. Our effort is not sufficient to bring us to God through Christ, and it is certainly not enough to help us sustain our Christian walk, and for us to grow more into the people that God intended us to be.
While Willard says we overemphasize trying, he says we also tend to underemphasize what we can accomplish by training. Think of it this way. If I were to decide that I wanted to run a half marathon (as out of shape as I am), and tomorrow were to go out and try to run the 13.1 miles required, I would certainly fail. I could go out the next day and try again, and I’d be in the same predicament. I meant get some people around me to tell me just to try harder, and it wouldn’t make any difference. On the other hand, what if I went out tomorrow and began to train to run 13.1 miles. I would start off walking, and a short distance, and the gradually day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month build up my endurance so that I could complete the half marathon.
Our spiritual lives also require training. Remember that one of the ways in which Paul said that Scripture is helpful is for “training in righteousness.” Lent is a good time for us to focus on spiritual training: prayer, Bible study, fasting, silence and solitude, acts of service, journaling, etc. It’s a time when we can challenge ourselves to train every day in one or more of these areas. Our goal is to become more spiritually mature (Ephesians 4:13), so that we see the people around us more the way that Jesus would see them, and that we respond to them with the same grace he has extended to us.
It was so good to gather yesterday despite the bad weather. It’s always a blessing to participate in the Lord’s Supper together. Our time of prayer together is also precious, and we see our prayers answered sometimes as we’d hope and other times in ways where our trust in God’s goodness is tested. I hope that you are continuing to join me in praying for the leaders of this congregation. I hope that you are continuing to pray for God’s direction, and that you are putting yourself in a posture where we can discern the work that he’s doing in our midst.
Thanks to all of you who go out of your way to help this congregation be able to do all that we do. Special thanks to the crew who have worked hard in the cold and snow to keep our sidewalks and parking lots clear and safe. Thanks to those who helped in preparing the Lord’s Supper yesterday. Also a special thank you to Kathy Miller for papering and painting the bottom part of the Fellowship Hall. It looks fantastic!