My desire to live consistently according to my beliefs is a bit like someone setting out to make some healthy changes to their lifestyle (in fact it is a lot like that!). Most health programmes carry a disclaimer stating that anyone over forty years old should only begin a fitness regime on the advice of their doctor, a big concern being that someone may start exercising and collapse with a heart attack.
I am over forty, and know that I am out of shape spiritually. Therefore it would be wise to do a bit of a heart checkup as I seek to exercise some spiritual discipline in my life.
Just as a cardiologist will do multiple tests to assess the state of a person’s heart muscle, understanding the state of my heart before God must take into account many factors: Am I hungering and thirsting for God? Is my life governed by God’s Word? Am I becoming more loving? Do I delight in the Bride of Christ? Is my heart broken over sin? How quickly do I forgive?
That is not an exhaustive list (in fact it is stolen from the book Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health by Donald S. Whitney), I am assuming that I will come across many other indicators of the state of my heart as I go on. There are also the ‘rough and ready’ indicators which we are all familiar with, and these serve to reveal the baseline of my current spiritual state, just as heart rate and blood pressure give a quick estimate of cardiac health.
WARNING: this will be disappointing!
Prayer: I currently pray very little. Days may pass completely without purposeful praying. When I do pray it tends to be while doing other things such as washing the dishes or walking to work so my thoughts wander far and wide in the process. When I timed how long I actually prayed over several days it was less than 5 minutes each day!
Bible reading: This used to be a strong point but has dwindled in the last couple of years. Some days I manage to read my target 5 chapters a day, often I read only one or two chapters and it is not uncommon for me to not open my Bible at all for several days.
Giving: Woeful (erratic and not much).
Serving: I preach about once every 6 weeks and serving as a member of the leadership board for our little church.
Evangelism: Nonexistent, fear keeps my lips sealed.
As you can see, this is a picture of someone who is fat, flabby and complacent. Moving out of this state will be a challenge and is going to take time. My gut feeling is that prayer is where I need to begin, with the first battle being to make space for quietness before God. On that note I’d like to point you toward a post from a friend about exactly that: Learning in silence.