A couple of posts ago, we went a little deeper on what it means to hear God. If you remember, this was the first of three activities that we perform to help ourselves grow spiritually. Today, we will talk a little more about the second activity, believing God.
As with hearing God, numerous well-written books on “belief” have been written and many more could be written. Here, we will focus not so much on defining belief and faith, but on the things we can be doing to strengthen our belief in what God has said. But to do that, we will scope the term belief to “believing what God has said”. In the post of “hearing God”, we discussed some aspects of understand what God has to say; in this one, we’ll discuss some things we can be doing to strengthen our belief in what we understand Him to have said.
I’ve mentioned before that the activities associated with believing God are similar to training activities in the world of athletics. Baseball players become better players by playing the game, yes, but the best players excel at training between games. Every athlete at the top of his game is obsessive about training. They learn from experience, but they are compelled to train to the point of suffering out of devotion for being the best at what they do. How much more so should a Christian be compelled to train to the point of suffering out of devotion for being the most like their Savior they can be?
What are these training activities? I believe they are most widely known as the spiritual disciplines. Pick up anything by Dallas Willard and you will be blessed in his encouraging view of how God changes us through these disciplines. The disciplines are used by God to prepare us for our future circumstances. He knows what is about to happen to us, and he provides opportunities for us to discipline ourselves in more controlled circumstances before the trouble hits.
Disciplines like prayer, study, worship, solitude, fasting, scripture memory, scripture meditation, and others train us internalize God’s Word. They train us to make His Word part of us. They train us to allow His Word to change us…to change who we are and therefore how we react natually. In my life, I’ve tried to develop this habit of calling upon some specific verse of scripture when I excounter a challenging or tempting circumstance. How could I do this if I only read the scriptures in a cursory manner? How could I do this if I only engage extra-biblical resources? How could I do this if I only attend bible studies for social reasons or to check it off of my “what I need to be doing to be a good Christian” list? I can’t. Earnest prayer, thoughtful study, focused meditation, sacrifical fasting, and (most important this day and age) regular time alone are what is required.
I’m sorry to say that this is hard work, and unfortunately that is not what many Christians these days sign-up for when they walk down the aisle. But, God’s way is always the best and “safest” way. And, in most cases, I would say that this little bit of pain helps us to avoid the great amount of pain that comes by trying to deal with life without having been trained on God’s ways.
I’ll leave you with this. I’ve been a Christian since the age of eight, and clearly God has been providing for and protecting me since then…no question. But, I did not experience consistency in life or steady change until I got serious about spending daily time alone with the Lord. If you do not already, I encourage you to spend a few minutes every day reading a passage from scripture, really thinking about what God is saying to you through it, and praying about it with God. If you do not know where to start, start with the book of John.
I promise that there is nothing you can do that will have a greater impact on your life than this very simple yet difficult to stick with activity. For me, what started as a form of sacrifice (giving up some of “my” time) has turned into a joy that I cannot imagine living without. If it were not for this simple discipline, I would be full of knowledge, but I can’t say I would genuinely believe what God has said nor have experienced the charater change that I have.