By Snr Ps Beh Soo Yeong
Over the past few weeks, we have been dwelling on the topic of Essentials. Through the sermons, we try to elucidate the essentials that we must have in our spiritual lives that will enable us to grow deeper and be more vibrant in the Lord. Working out our salvation through obedience is key, but we must also weed away the temptations and distractions in our lives in order to continue to abide and walk in Christ so as to be fruitful.
In order for us to maintain course in these essentials—to work out, weed away and walk in—we are encouraging each other to respond to the Growing Deeper Invitation. This invitation is essentially (no pun intended) an invitation to practice at least four of the ten suggested spiritual habits and disciplines in the company of various spiritual friends through the year. These habits include reading the Bible, memorising scripture, fasting, sharing our faith and life journey, mentoring and being mentored, have family devotions together, joining a CARE Group (CG) etc. and are selected because they help us to be available to and dependant on God, to listen to him and obey him. Besides the ten suggested exercises, you may also choose to self-design one to allow yourself the time and space to be with God and hear from him.
We have structured these exercises over a short period of time, mainly because we hope to encourage those who are not initiated or are unfamiliar with them to have a go at them. Sometimes, trying new habits can be quite stimulating. So, do take this opportunity to attempt a couple of new exercises that you have not tried for a while or tried before. Obviously, if you find them helpful and life-giving, feel free to continue and deepen the exercises on your own.
What is also important is that we do these in the company of others, because on our own, we tend to lose steam and get distracted or discouraged, but with the encouragement and inspiration of others, we can go the extra mile. Hearing and sharing wonderful stories of intimacy with God or struggles in the journey can also motivate and connect us with others. God’s word reminds us, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Eccl 4.12) or as the African proverb goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Mutual encouragement is always critical. For families, this is also one good way to bond through some common exercises together.
Some of us, however, may not feel inclined to any discipline or habit, perhaps because it sounds legalistic. This is understandable since there is work or effort involved in such habits or discipline, but work is not bad as long as it is not aimless or pointless work. It is important to note that the exercises, in and of themselves, are good but not the end goal. Rather, they are means to a greater end, which is time and space carved out for the Lord to pay attention to him and listen to him. Therefore, focus on this greater goal rather than merely fulfilling the “requirements” of the exercises. These exercises enable us to deliberately spend time with God and others to cultivate our relationship with him. Using the analogy of physical exercise, these spiritual exercises serve to strengthen our “spiritual core muscles” that hold up the “structure” of our spiritual life, that will put us in good stead when we face trials, temptations and turmoil in life.
Finally, I would like to encourage all of us not just to respond to the growing deeper invitation, but to also share your journey at some points during the year, either with your friends, your CG or with the church. These may be stories of intimate moments where God spoke and ministered to you. It may be stories of small triumphs and the fruit of perseverance. It may even be stories of various struggles and prayer requests to be consistent or focused. Rather than stories to brag, these testimonies witness to the presence of the Lord in our lives, and encourage others to persevere on.
May we find joy as we work out our salvation together as his treasured possession!