This isn’t a success story, but a story of perseverance.
Several weeks ago, Pastor Jon challenged the people of Discovery to read through the entire New Testament in 90 days. I took on that challenge and can gladly say it has changed my approach to being a disciple of Jesus.
In summary, two days into the challenge I missed the reading. So, I read it the next day without trying to catch up. Then there were several days where I forgot, but remembered when I went to bed and only read one chapter of the 4 that were on the reading plan. Furthermore, there were the several day where I did not follow the reading plan at all, but simply read the He Reads Truth devotional.
Full disclosure, I just started the Gospel of Luke and I think the reading plan would have me in Acts. I don’t exactly know where the challenge should be, nor do I care, because every day I have spent time in God’s word. And what that has done is made me thirsty for more.
I still don’t have a time of day scheduled in for reading the Word. The way our family life is, I fit it in when I can, when I think of it. And now I find myself thinking of it often enough that I find I do my reading during my kid’s nap, or during lunch break, or in a long line at the grocery store. If that is when I think of it, that is when I make time to do it. It is working for me, but what works for me may not work for others.
I would describe the above phenomenon like this: The Bible is spiritual food, and my spirit was starving. And now that I have had some consistency it is taking less purposeful effort to make it happen. I feed my face every day, I want to feed my soul every day too. If someone is busy and forgets to eat breakfast they don’t say, “Well screw it, why eat at all?” No, they go on to eat lunch. Now, if I miss a day of reading the Bible, I just read it the next day. Before, missing a day could derail the whole streak I had going, I would get distracted and give up on reading daily for a long time.
Our American culture is performance orientated, and as such, we are conditioned to look at our iscipleship to Jesus based on our performance of religious things. The two most common measures used are daily Bible reading and daily prayer. It’s as if we are going to sit with HR Manager Jesus and have a performance review where he sits down at the desk looks over his glasses at us and says:
“Well, it looks like you haven’t prayed very much since our last review, your performance is still lacking. And your reading of the Bible is sub-standard, this is the third month without improvement. I see you did some good works, but twice forgot to do it in my name. Church attendance has improved, but you have been tardy quite a bit. And that Bad habit, that secret sin, is still causing problems. Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
“I’m sorry, I’ll try harder.”
“The only reason you are here is because it was the Jubilee and I had to let you in.”
But Jesus isn’t like that, and trying harder doesn’t change the heart.
Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). Trying harder under the pressure of past failures and expectations of future performance would not be described as easy work or a light burden.
But what Jesus asks isn’t easy! Easy yoke? Light burden? Are you kidding me? Turn the other cheek when struck? Don’t even get angry because that is the same as murder? That’s impossible… isn’t it?
Not in the Kingdom of God. I contend that it is possible, and that what Jesus is talking about is becoming the kind of person where those things come easy for you, like things you just naturally do. It is a process, like how I learned to read my Bible every day and not worry about the performance. By God’s grace that is getting easier.
I do not say all this because I have attained this easy natural way of doing what Jesus teaches, far from it. I say this because I want my story to encourage you to stick to discipleship, especially when you screw up. It takes effort, but I like what Dallas Willard says about effort: “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Effort is action, earning is attitude.”
Dallas Willard did a series of talks at Bethel University on discipleship and The Kingdom of God. You can find them on iTunes U (free to download and use) by searching for Dallas Willard. I listened to them in the car and while washing dishes.