Looking Beyond the Assembly: Connecting Spiritual Disciplines and Worship
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). As Jesus unpacks the Kingdom of God through the powerful mosaic of the Sermon on the Mount, He begins with the blessings (The Beatitudes), but verse 6 throws me off. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” I grasp what our Savior is conveying: “We are blessed when we hunger and thirst for righteousness.” “We are granted the divine favor of God when we crave the Kingdom.” When I read verse 6, I want to argue with Jesus (a little); because I think it’s contingent. I believe it’s completely contingent. Our Lord promises that we’ll be filled when we hunger and thirst for God, when we hunger and thirst for all that is of God. He promises that when we hunger and thirst for righteousness we will be filled. However, I believe that we are only filled to the extent we hunger and thirst for Him.
And so the question remains: How hungry are we? How thirsty are we, for God?
Our relationship with God is so significant that worship could not possibly be confined to four walls and one hour each week. We worship with every facet of life (Romans 12:1). But as we commune with our Father and fellow believers each Resurrection Day, isn’t our worship on Sunday critically influenced through our worship of Him during the week?
What discipleship rhythms do you practice each week? Each day? How often do you pray? Are you intentional in your prayer life? Is prayer foundational to you? Reciprocal for you? By that I mean, do you do all the talking? Or is there time for silence? Meditation? Contemplation? What about studying Scripture? How much consideration do you give God’s Word? Do you read large portions of Scripture often? Do you consume small passages daily? When you read Scripture, what is your motive? Do you read it as an end in and of itself? Or does the Word feed your soul and sustain your life? Do you practice fasting as a means of spiritual discipline? Denying yourself physically in order that the Holy Father might minister to you so that you might grow spiritually?
“Disciple” and “discipline” come from the same Latin root word. The two concepts are intimately connected, and yet so very often we attempt to divorce discipline from discipleship. As if that’s possible! Or biblical. Or pleases God.
The practice of Christian disciplines to facilitate spiritual formation is critical in living a life that is formed and shaped by Jesus.
I believe there are ten foundational, spiritual practices that serve to wholly center us upon a life characterized by discipleship (and one which mirrors our Savior):
- Christian Community
- macro-Christian community (communal worship)
- macro-Christian community (engaging life with a close-knit circle of believers)
- Denying Self
Do you foster intentional, Christ-centered community in the life that you lead? Do you starve the carnal nature and feed the spiritual, denying that which gets in the way of following Jesus? Do you practice humility? Exude compassion? Strive to live a life of simplicity so much so that the chatter of life fades away and all that remains are those things which are conducive to a Jesus way of living? Are you content with the life you live?
Only in Jesus.
“Busy” describes the lives of most of us. “Hectic” or “pressured” probably does a better job of describing the lives of many. We over-commit, over-book, and over-obligate. We put demands on ourselves and demands on our families that very often do more harm than good. I say “we” because I have been just as guilty, if not more so, than you. I look to my peer group, to those who have children at home, and I see us overextending ourselves in too many areas of life. We often spend exorbitant amounts of time and energy in arenas that grant us little in return, placing emphasis in areas of life that in the grand scheme of things possess little significance. We are running full speed ahead in a rapidly spinning hamster wheel and getting absolutely nowhere.
What is needed is a reprioritization of what is important. We desperately need to sift through the things that comprise our lives and determine what’s important and what’s not, to determine what we’re investing our lives into that’s really worthwhile and what needs to be scaled back, or even, completely cut out.
We spend so much effort seeking to provide for a lifestyle that we’ve created, so much so that we spend little time investing in the family we’ve created the lifestyle for. How stupid is that?
I have to believe that Jesus’ life was one of complexity and simplicity. It was balanced. In every way it was balanced. Does “balanced” describe your life? If not, perhaps some reprioritization is in order.
Jesus spent intentional time with God. He set aside God-designated time. When is the last time that you did that? Is it a part of your normal rhythm of life? When is the last time you removed yourself from the static of the world and just spent time in communion with the Father, seeking counsel from Him, and refocusing upon those things in life which truly matter?
Spending time in prayer and in communion and in silence before God, engaging in intentional spiritual disciplines, and committing ourselves to a rhythm of discipleship that naturally facilitates balance and simplicity in a life filled with complexity, is such a Christ-like way to live.
But if I had to guess, if anyone gets cheated, it’s God, and in the end, you, and those that need you.
As resurrected people we live life between Sundays. We yearn for Sunday because on Sunday we commune with God the Father, Son, and Spirit, and we commune with one another as His church. But the design of covenant is such that we experience communion with God in every facet of life. Our worship of God on Sunday is diametrically impacted (either positively or negatively) through our worship of Him during the week. Our communal worship works in tandem with our spiritual practice. Worship on Sunday is not the culmination of our week but rather works in synergy with the fundamental practice of spiritual disciplines. The goal of which is a holistic way of living. The goal of spiritual formation is a life that honors the Father, and a way of life that looks more and more like Jesus.
We think of ourselves as being in pursuit of God, and prayerfully we are. But when we consume the wonder into our hearts that it is He who pursues us, the transformative reality of covenant relationship and living in sync with Him radically changes everything.
“Let heaven fill your thoughts.” – Colossians 3:2a (NLT)
Jason Reeves is the preaching minister for the West Erwin Church of Christ in Tyler, TX. He and his wife Tiersa are high school sweethearts. They have four wonderful children: Mason, Kacey, Jacob, and Bowen. Jason describes himself as a “Christian, husband, father, and connoisseur of coffee.” His formal education comes from Lubbock Christian University (MA in Biblical Interpretation), Dallas Christian College (BA in Ministry and Leadership), and the Center for Christian Education (Certificate of Ministry). You can read more of Jason’s writings at Reeve’s Rhetoric