It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
- Galatians 5:1
“The first warning is for those who love lists and formulas. You take notes during talks and underline when you read, and you already practice a rigorous spiritual regimen. Before you dutifully lengthen your list of spiritual duties, back off. Do you need more habits-or more effective ones? Do you need to weigh yourself down further—-or bring your heavy load to Jesus?
“I fear that for too many believers, spiritual discipline turns into a straitjacket experience filled with requirements that squeeze the vitality and spontaneity and adventure right out of faith and life. For these people, Christ no longer brings freedom. Religion becomes a heavy burden. Most people can’t live that way for long. Some of those who really work at it develop such a self-righteous attitude that everyone wishes they would fail.”
- Bill Hybels, Too Busy Not to Pray
A Scripture note: The Galatians Scripture mentions slavery, but in this case, we submit ourselves at times to our own set of rules which limits the methods in which God can reveal Himself to us – burdening us with a self-imposed slavery.
Rev. Hybels makes two warnings for those who want to create heart-building habits. One is as stated above, to not be a slave to lists, checklists, schedules, etc. The other is to not be too spontaneous. Rev. Hybels describes spontaneity as being the typical American lifestyle, but that is not the case for many Americans. I have never been one for lists, but being totally spontaneous is not my thing either.
Last year, I took my wife on a day trip to Cumberland, Maryland. It got her out of the state of Pennsylvania and in not being an overnight trip, it did not interfere with her kidney dialysis schedule. She was thrilled by this spontaneous trip, but the truth is that I had been checking the weather and I thought that a trip to Cumberland might be nice and a trip to Erie, Pennsylvania, with maybe slipping into New York state a little would be nice. I researched places to eat in both locations. I looked for attractions in both locations. I spent a full week planning both trips. As the free day approached, the thought of a little lake effect snow developed in Erie, and the area around Cumberland was predicted to stay above freezing all day. Thus, the Cumberland research was what we used, but as we approached the town, half the places I wanted to visit were closed for one reason or another. In doing a little shopping for souvenirs and walking around the C&O Canal (Chesapeake and Ohio Canal) was all her energy level could take. And the C&O canal ended at Cumberland where the goods going to the Ohio River were transferred to other means of transportation, but the people naming the canal were among those list makers that fell short of the list.
The trip was spontaneous for her. I did not let her know until we woke up that morning and she was feeling good. I did not want to disappoint her in case the weather was bad or she felt sick or exhausted.
But we could look at each element of Christian growth and apply Rev. Hybels’ two warnings. If Bible study is not partially regimented, excuses will arise and the Bible study will fall short. That does not mean that on a day with some free time, you might pick up a Bible Commentary or simply read a book of the Bible – just for “fun” while learning. You can call Christian friends and tell them that you are taking them to lunch after the worship service. Who knows what you might discuss over the meal. Sunday school and worship are always scheduled. Thus, you can be both regimented and spontaneous in both these areas, as long as the regimented is a habit.
But what of prayer? I will admit that my regimented, scheduled prayer life is not as good as it should be. I could go into a prayer closet once each day, but I do not. In praying continuously, I am talking to God almost all the time. It is constantly spontaneous. A situation arises and I really don’t have to say, “God, what do you think?” But I often do, and when I get my answer, I always give thanks to God.
Yes, in Bible study, prayer, and communion with Christian friends, we can be both spontaneous and list-oriented. We should delve into both sides in each area. And we can do it all glorifying God.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
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