Not long ago, after agreeing to address an audience of Christian leaders on the topic of staying connected to God, I immediately regretted my decision. My deep-seated misgivings did not stem from normal issues of over-commitment but from an insatiable realization that something was wrong with the idea that mature believers needed to know how to stay fresh spiritually. What gnawed at my soul was that we don't need fresh how-to's, but rather a proverbial kick in the pants to do the hard work of practicing spiritual disciplines. Although we cry out for more information, what we really need is more application of what we already know.
I liken it to the multi-billion dollar dieting industry, regularly promoting yet the newest fad in weight loss. Those of us who struggle with unwanted pounds are always on the lookout for some new strategy, breakthrough method, or even the ever-hoped-for magic pill that will melt the pounds away and somehow eliminate the hard work of denying ourselves and hitting the gym. In truth, there is no easy way and no one can do it for us.
The same is true in my spiritual life. I know what is required of me to stay spiritually fit, connected to God and in step with the Spirit. But I harbor a hidden hope that a fresh idea or new approach will somehow make following God easier or more appealing. Bottom line: There are no shortcuts to spiritual intimacy with God.
What gets in the way? We do. We don't want to work that hard. We feel significant when we over-schedule our lives. We don't want to sacrifice that much. We convince ourselves that serving is a sufficient pathway to God. We substitute experience and intuition for prayerful wisdom. We count teaching preparation as our week's (or month's) worth of time with God. We listen to the songs of our favorite "American idols": entitlement, image, pride, financial security, materialism, relationships, power, comfort, homes, entertainment, and even our children.
It's not a fresh idea that we need; it's a fresh start. So, where do we begin? We need to humble ourselves before God and admit that ministry not fueled by intimacy with him is self-serving and powerless. Let's encourage each other to do the hard work of staying connected with God and remember that the rewards are out of this world.