Liz Birnie is from Vancouver and serves on the Renewal Fellowship Board.
Jesus promised he will come again, but he also questioned, "When the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth?" This column is designed to build you up in your faith during the wait for "maranatha."
Last year, I challenged myself to take a trip that required physical strength and endurance. I realized that if I was going to have any fun, I had to get in shape. Reluctantly, I began regular visits to the gym. As I went through the mindless routines on the apparatus, there was plenty of time for thinking and I began to see the parallels between the physical discipline I was undertaking and the spiritual disciplines that transform us and help us to lead lives that are truly Christ-like.
As I share some of the things that I learned, it is my hope that this will help you to establish a daily time of personal Bible study and prayer.
1. Go there!
Sure, you can increase your heart-rate by taking the dog out for a walk, riding a bike or working in the garden, but going to a particular place (the gym) heightened my awareness of what I was doing.
So it is that as you choose a room, a favourite chair or a desk at which to meet with the Lord, your attitude changes. The distractions are lessened and you focus more clearly on the objective, time to "reason together" with God the Father.
2. Just do it!
After a very short time in the new routine, I began to recognize faces and realized that these were people who had the same rhythm as I did. Going at different times of the day resulted in a completely new set of companions! From time to time, my regular buddies would miss a day, but they would soon be back wit a smile for me, as they pounded the same old treadmill again.
Once you get into the schedule that's right for you, stick with it. (Research says that after repeating an activity 28 times it becomes routine.) But if you do miss, don't let guilt be what brings you back. That will rob you of the joy that God intends to fill you with as you spend time together.
3. Be prepared!
Some wear saggy old sweats; others, trendy spandex and muscle shirts, but what the clothes have in common is that they are comfortable for the wearer; the shoes give support and there is usually a water bottle at hand!
Buy a version of the Bible that you can easily understand, use study guides and have a notebook and pencil handy. Keeping a written list of prayer requests is practical if you tend to forget, or find your mind wandering, but guard against this becoming a "work," you are "one-on-one" with God and he accepts you unconditionally!
4. Keep going!
The sweat is trickling in my ears, my knees have shooting pains, my hands are throbbing and I'm puffing like an engine, and I'm not even halfway through! But oh! the thrill and the feeling of triumph when I get to the end of the workout!
Meeting with God is sometimes like that for me. His word reveals something uncomfortable in my life. Obedience to his word is going to cost and I can't seem to find the will to pay. Struggles with my human failures bring hurt and sorrow. But over time, these encounters build up new strengths and the endurance to "run the race" that Paul talks about.
The beauty of it all is that Jesus has already won the race for me; he has triumphed over the death that was meant for me. I can live "the abundant life." Maybe, before my time is up, the Son of Man will return. Will he find the faith in me he's looking for?