Heart surgery is a two-part process. There’s the surgery, and then the often lengthy recovery process. Similarly, the changing of one’s spiritual heart starts with surrender; submitting to the process of God changing your heart and then continues as a lifelong process of God stripping away everything that is unholy and sinful. The second part of the spiritual heart surgery can be overwhelming and exhausting. There will be successes and times of celebration, however it may feel to you like those are few and far between. In my last post, I mentioned how disheartening and painful this can be at times. Speaking from experience, there have been times when I’ve felt overwhelmed, uncomfortable and disheartened. I let the circumstances around me dictate my feelings, and have been tempted to throw in the towel. But in those times there were three small but very important disciplines that were present in my life that kept me going and kept my mind centered in the midst of being made new. I believe these are small habits anyone can foster to better prepare yourself when the going gets tough:
Habit 1: Prayer
Take time out of your day and talk with God. It sounds simple. However, this habit is so daunting to so many people, myself included. When I’m going through a rough season, prayer feels like the last thing that I want to do. That’s why it’s pivotal to foster the habit of prayer as soon as possible. There’s a saying that goes, “Prayer should be your first response, rather than a last resort.” The apostle Paul instructs us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always,pray continually,give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” When we engage in prayer we’re talking to the Creator of the universe and acting in obedience to His will. This doesn’t make it any less daunting, mind you. If anything, this may discourage us. But I encourage you to avoid the trap of feeling like you need to pray a specific way.
Pray with gratitude for the things God has blessed you with and pray for the desires of your heart. Pray when you don’t know what to do. Pray when things are great. Pray when things are terrible. Pray when you don’t know what to say. The apostle Paul also says in Romans 8that the Holy Spirit “helps us in our weakness” by interceding for uson our behalf when we pray. How comforting to know that the Holy Spirit knows what we need, even if we don’t know how to express it! I challenge you to start small. Take 5 minutes out of your day to talk to God. There’s no right or wrong way to pray, just talk to him like you would anyone else. Thank Him for what He did yesterday, and praise Him for what you believe He’ll do today. Start this habit now so that you have an anchor when you hit the next rough patch in life.
Habit 2: Read the Word
As we’ve mentioned before on this blog, we believe God’s Holy Scripture to be alive. The Apostle Paul puts it best in 1 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” He can use scripture in an infinite amount of ways. The more you dig in to the Word, the less it becomes just another app on your phone or book on your shelf. It slowly becomes a lifeline for when you feel like giving up. The more it helps refine you in the post-op heart surgery. So dive in. Read it. SOAPit. Find a helpful devotional in the Bible App. Again, start out with a realistic goal so as not to overwhelm yourself. Commit to reading for 10 minutes a day. Meditate on God’s word and reflect on what He’s saying to you. Often times we spend our prayer time talking to God, studying the Word allows Him space to talk back to us.
Habit 3: Engage in Community
Life is hard in and of itself. Life in Christ isn’t exactly a cakewalk either. When we give our life to Christ and allow Him to begin working in us, we sometimes get a false notion that everything will be sunshine and rainbows. All we have to do is look at Jesus’ disciples to understand that a life following Christ is going to be difficult at times. In fact, Jesus tells His disciples they WILL have trouble. This is one of the numerous reasons why it is so important to have a good community around you. Acts 2:42-47is the model we use today for our groups here at Epic. It’s a great picture into the early stages of our modern day Church. Drilling down further, it’s a picture of group-life.
I had a difficult 2018, and at times found myself questioning God’s will for me and exactly where He was in my life. Looking back now, I can clearly see He was there supporting me, and loving me through the community that surrounded me. I can say with strong conviction, had my friends Jeremy, Patrick, Dan, Chris and countless others not surrounded me, prayed for me and supported me, that I may have walked away from my faith, or at least been isolated enough for my faith to take a critical hit. I never would’ve had that support had I not been in a group of strong, Christ-loving believers.
Godly community is a blessing in good times too. I’ve had some of the most rewarding times celebrating, socializing, and even providing comfort to others in the midst of their trials. If you aren’t in a group of Godly community, your recovery process is going to be far more daunting and difficult. Don’t go through the recovery process alone.
When looking to establish new disciplines in my life, I have a tendency to overcomplicate things. I often try to do too much all at once by making big sweeping changes that leave me feeling overwhelmed and discouraged, eventually leading me to fall back into old habits. Spiritual habits are no different, thus I have found greater success in making small changes. When I set obtainable goals and reach them it allows me to create a foundation built on those small victories and allows me to carry the momentum forward towards bigger goals.
Spiritual heart change is an elephant. There is only one way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time. So with each of these disciplines, I encourage you to start small. If you struggle with one or all of them, keep trying. I guarantee that even in your struggles that Christ is working. Philippians 1:6has become one of my favorite verses in all of scripture. It’s a promise that says, ”And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
So don’t be discouraged if you find yourself struggling. Remember you’re a work in progress and that Christ is faithful to keep working in you.
Which spiritual habit(s) do you find Christ is calling you to begin this week?
Written By: Calum Renner, Communications Team