Life after college can be hard, but also full of meaning and hope. With graduation looming for many of you, what should you know about the world that waits for you on the other side of your diploma? What can you expect? What can you learn from those who have gone before you? In our 6 part series 'Life After College' we hope you find a few significant things to help prepare you for what's ahead.
If you were given a list of the top five hottest topics in Christian circles today, I doubt spiritual discipline would be in the running; it probably wouldn’t even make the top ten. Yet it is one of the most important and practical facets of our daily lives as Christians. Still, we rarely talk about it. The very word “discipline” summons a negative image to our minds, one of obeying rules rather than a life-giving practice. It is for that very reason we must reexamine the heart and significance of spiritual discipline.
Part of our aversion toward discipline is the fact that it, in its own nature, requires activity. Reading your Bible, praying, experiencing the Church community - these are actions not attitudes, prescriptions not personalities. So, when we put those in the context of a personal, intimate relationship with God, we can get turned off all the more. We think, “If my love for God is genuine, then my feelings will sustain my growth.” That’s not how relationships operate though. What successful marriage do you know of that doesn’t require work?
Yes, I recognize that we don’t always want to read our Bibles, we don’t want to use our free time to pray, and how much easier would it be to skip that service after a late night? But we must fight for discipline. Not because it’s part of some Christian checklist, but because it is a human necessity. We are all sinful. Left to my own devices, I will run from God, I will be self-serving, I will minimize Him. God wants to give us Himself though, and spiritual disciplines are a unique way He does that. John 1 says, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Spiritual life is naturally external to the human frame, it is in Jesus. Through the Holy Spirit, we must continually cultivate and seek that Life and the spiritual disciplines are meant to be the avenues to do just that.
Just telling you to go read Leviticus won’t make you do it. Bad example. Saying you must have a 'quiet time' every morning will not motivate you enough to ensure you do. Instead, it is seeing the heart of discipline that will produce devotion. Again, feelings are not our main determiner for if we read Scripture, pray, and engage in community, but it certainly helps to have some understanding of how God reveals Himself in those realms.
First, the Bible. Suffice it to say, I will certainly not cover all of the reasons why we should read it, but I’ll give at least one. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” That’s pretty substantial. The reality is, there are only two things in creation into which God specifically breathes: humans and Scripture. There is a deep, inseparable connection between the Bible and knowing God and, for that matter, even knowing ourselves.
As far as prayer, I’m no expert. No one really is, and I think that’s the point, isn’t it? At least that’s probably the reason we don’t pray as often as we feel like we should. We can get in our minds that God wants to hear a particular thing in a certain way and we forget that He wants us. He wants to be in communion with us. If you don’t know how to pray, invite Him in to what you’re already doing, how you feel about it, your anxieties, fears, joys. God desires to be involved in every aspect of our lives and the daily, regular discipline of prayer is the single most practical way of doing that.
Lastly, community. We don’t often think of community as a discipline but I would argue, and the Bible would say, it is one. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” For Christians, the very act of gathering together is sacred. There is so much more at work than simply friendships or singing or even a message: God is working. He shapes us through others, we encourage on another, and bear one another’s burdens within the context of community. The Christian life was never intended to be just you and God and we really miss out if we are not regularly surrounding ourselves with other believers.
As a college student involved in RealLife, you might not think about spiritual discipline all too often. And that’s understandable to an extent. You have Bible study once a week, attend the weekly meeting, maybe even get coffee with a staff member and plumb the depths of what God is teaching you. I can assure you though, once you graduate, the practice of the spiritual disciplines must become the lifeblood of your walk with the Lord. Cultivating those disciplines that God put in place for us to thrive will only serve to give you more of Him when you don’t live with nine other Christians or get to go to weekend retreats or when that midterm isn’t your biggest concern and paying your mortgage is. Life will throw joys and trials at you: it is a never ending sea of situations and seasons. But God is our Rock through it all, the constant force amongst the breakers. So read, pray, seek out fellowship in the good and the bad and strive to know the one whose desire it is that, “they may have life, and have it to the full.”