“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”2 Peter 3:18 (NIV)
A couple of weeks ago, while I was in Dallas, Cathy and I planted a vegetable garden consisting of green and red peppers, cucumbers, squash and tomatoes. We had to take careful steps in planting these vegetable plants properly, making sure they were planted with the right conditions in the right soil, fertilizer and the proper amount of sun and that they would be watered daily with the right amount of water but not too much. The Christian life like that vegetable garden has to be properly nurtured. Just as there are certain steps we must take to insure that the vegetable garden grows well we must take steps and engage in regular practices that will nurture our spiritual growth in Christ.
Now may be an opportunity to take some time to cultivate our spiritual garden during this pandemic. Several years ago, I engaged in a private three day retreat at the Jesuit Montserrat Retreat Center, at Lake Lewisville in Dallas. While it would be impossible for me to explain all I derived in such a short space, I would like to share with you some suggestions that the spiritual director of the retreat, Father Joe Tetlow, a Jesuit priest shared with us. What I have done is taken his original 12 suggestions and adapted them for us Protestants. I hope you will find these suggestions as helpful in nurturing your spiritual life as I have.
TWELVE PRACTICES THAT CAN HELP MAINTAIN
YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE WITH OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
- Praise God as you wake up. Spend fifteen minutes or even a half-hour in prayer with God beginning with the Apostles Creed, or a Psalm or passage you have memorized. Ask God to give you what you expect you’ll need to serve God today and pray for those in your life, your family, friends, neighbors and coworkers.
- In your time of prayer, pray through the passage suggested by the Upper Room Devotional Study for that day or a daily Bible reading that you have been doing. If you don’t have a copy of the Upper Room, pick up copy from our church or subscribe by e-mail for free through this website http://www.upperroom.org/devotional/email/ Always end your prayer speaking directly to God. End your prayer with the Lord’s prayer which Jesus gave us as the model prayer.
- Attend Church and Sunday School each week and feel drawn to it. Receive communion regularly and take advantage of the various classes and Bible studies offered through the church during the week.
- Keep a little prayer book or devotional book such as the Upper Room. Memorize prayers, hymns and scripture passages that stand out to you in your readings and provide you comfort such as the 23rd Psalm if you don’t already know it.
- Surround yourself with symbols of your faith and love. Wear a cross or other Christian symbol and put Christian art on your wall or desk. You never know how these symbols may open up an opportunity for you to share your faith with another who inquires about why you wear the symbol.
- Read devotional books such as the Upper Room and others that inspire you to live out your Christian faith in a hostile world. There are also many classical works on living the spiritual life such as Thomas A Kempis’, “The Imitation of Christ” or John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress.” If you are looking for devotional books and don’t know where to start, ask your pastor.
- Keep a Christian diet and try to exercise several times a week, using food and drink moderately as good gifts of God. Guard your health because your body is sacred and as Paul reminds us “All of you surely know that you are God’s temple and that his Spirit lives in you” (1 Cor. 3:16).
- Belong to or form a spiritual growth group to pray, study the Bible, or discuss your experiences of God in Christ. The best place to do this is in some of the online groups that we already have in Sunday school classes or even some of the online Bible studies here at Trinity. However, you may choose to form another virtual group which provides more support and requires more accountability.
- Do the ministry the Spirit appoints for you: teaching or volunteering to assist in a Sunday school class, calling the sick, or members of the church living alone, helping in a food pantry, or preparing cards for the elderly in nursing homes.
- Create a life-style that lets you use the earth’s resources responsibly and allows you to give generously to those in need. Consider planting a vegetable garden and sharing the excess with those in need or consider whether you might give a tenth of your income to the needy.
- Make an examination of your conscience daily, in the morning or better yet in the evening when you may review it.You may want to record these reflections in a journal that you can review periodically. Ask for God’s guidance by praying something like this, “O Lord, please enlighten me with your Holy Spirit as I reflect on this day, and give me the grace to see myself as you see me. In Jesus name, Amen.”
You might spend a few minutes following these five points:
- Review your day and thank God for the specific blessings God gave you that day.
- Ask the Holy Spirit for clarity to review the opportunities God offered you that day and whether you recognized those opportunities and acted or not
- Present your failures to God and ask God to forgive you for your sins and failures of that day through God’s Son, Jesus.
- Ask God to clearly reveal to you what God is calling you to change.
- Resolve to change that behavior or pattern and ask God for His grace through Christ to strengthen you to change it.
- Falling asleep, thank God for the day, and leave it in God’s hands to Whom all is now.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful. Here is one caveat. There is nothing magical about these practices. This is just one spiritual approach designed to help us get in the daily habit of seeking God throughout our day. Use this discipline if you find it helpful. But recognize its limitations. Like any spiritual discipline there is always the danger that it could become just another meaningless ritual supplanting a vital, living relationship with Christ. When that happens it’s time to discard it.
God help me to daily cultivate my spiritual growth in Your Son Jesus. Help me to grow in the grace and knowledge of Your Son, Jesus becoming more and more like Him in my temperament and behavior. In Jesus Name. Amen.
Questions for Reflection
1. What daily steps are you taking to cultivate your spiritual relationship with Christ?
2. Which of the above practices would you find the most helpful? Which would you find the least helpful? Why?
3. What does it mean to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus?
4. Why is knowing and becoming more like Jesus so important to the spiritual life?