Reflections on spiritual themes (and a few other things).

Tag: Spirituality

Rusty Rails

“It is better to wear out than to rust out.”

Richard Cumberland. English philosopher, Bishop of Petersborough

I grew up near a railroad track and witnessed the truth of this quotation firsthand. When I was a child, trains ran along these tracks daily. Consequently, the rails were shiny on top and looked like polished steel. Through the years, however, the trains were rerouted and that stretch of track was no longer used. Over time the rails turned dull and then rusty. 

Many things in this world deteriorate faster through neglect than overuse like empty houses, barns, and abandoned cars. The same principle applies to less tangible things like marriages, mental abilities, health, spirituality, church life. Letting these things sit idly, without ever exercising or using them, is a sure path to rust and degradation.

The classic biblical illustration is the sluggard’s vineyard described in Proverbs 24.30-34. The writer says, 

I passed by the field of the sluggard
And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense,
And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles;
Its surface was covered with nettles,
And its stone wall was broken down.
When I saw, I reflected upon it;
I looked, and received instruction.
“A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest,”
Then your poverty will come as a robber
And your want like an armed man.

Through neglect this vineyard is overgrown, its walls are crumbling, and there’s little hope of restoration. The sluggard’s epitaph? “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest” (v 33). His mantra becomes his demise.

Especially in your spiritual life and in your relationships, if things aren’t going well, the most obvious question is, “Am I neglecting some aspect of this?” In your spiritual life, are you praying as you should? Are you worshipping? Are you studying your Bible? Are you cultivating fellowship and service with others? In your relationships, are you communicating? Are you spending time together? Are you helping and encouraging one another? 

Better to be weary from work than to be numbed by neglect.

For today and every day, get busy and polish those rails!

Spiritual Metrics

Businesses pour a lot of energy and resources into monitoring and measuring growth. It’s what they call “metrics.” There are metrics for sales, marketing, social media, growth, income, revenue, costs, website traffic, inventory, customer satisfaction, employee turnover, etc.

Regarding metrics, Seth Godin (entrepreneur & author) says, “Just because something is easy to measure doesn’t mean it’s important.” Metrics deal with quantity and not necessarily with quality. Something may be big, but is it good? Is it worthwhile? Is it important?

As Christians we face a similar challenge. As Christians, we’re in the business of spiritual growth. But how do we measure that? The most important indicators of spiritual growth are qualitative, not quantitative. That means that spiritual growth is sometimes hard to measure.

Peter said, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (2 Peter 1.2-11).

Peter gives us a set of spiritual metrics, things we should monitor: faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. He tells us that if we track these things and practice them, spiritual growth will happen. 

He even tells us in this text what that spiritual growth looks like: a true and intimate knowledge of God; looking more like God and less like the world; bearing fruit; and being able to handle temptation. These qualities are the evidence of spiritual growth.

The takeaway is this: God has given us the metrics we need to grow in the right way. Our task is to use them in the right way. 

The Fundamentals of Success

“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals.” – Jim Rohn

I’m not an expert on motivation, or success, or self-help. Although I’ve read books about success and motivation, I’ve never completely mastered any of them, and in some areas, I’m still not very good. But I’ve studied it enough to know that the principles of success aren’t mysterious, but, in fact, are reasonably obvious. My problem isn’t knowledge, it’s application. Or more accurately, lack of application.

Now, think of this in terms of your spiritual life. I’ll reword this quotation by substituting the word “spirituality” in place of the word “success.” It would then say, “Spirituality is neither magical nor mysterious. Spirituality is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals.” I find it helpful to think of spiritual growth in that way: applying a set of fundamental principles to the problems we face in our spiritual lives.

By way of application, which of these two components do you struggle with the most? Is it with learning fundamental spiritual principles? Or is it with putting the principles into practice?

This is where the discipline of self-examination becomes so critically important. Every day of every week, each of us needs to take a hard and honest look at ourselves to see where we should improve. The only way we can improve is to identify the problem, find the biblical principle that addresses the problem, and then put the principle into practice to eliminate the problem. That’s spiritual success.

As we said at the beginning, there’s nothing magical or mysterious about spiritual success. It’s a matter of applying the principles to the problem.

Jesus said it best of all: “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them” (John 13.17).