Perhaps—hopefully by reading some of these weekly Sabbath Ramblings articles I've been writing—you have passed just a few mile markers on your training course for spiritual stamina, a topic I visited in last week's article.
You’ve discovered common temptations, obstacles, pitfalls and struggles you and I both face, and have learned how to deal with them.
You’re now familiar with the concept of temperance, the mastery of passions and desires, and how to strike a balance between savoring God’s creation and self-discipline.
You’ve familiarized yourself with how to enhance your purpose and productivity while working deep, creating meaningful beauty, and simultaneously experiencing rest and refreshment.
You’ve learned how to love others and love God more fully, while creatively weaving the Golden Rule into your life, using a mindful and people-connected approach that will change your personal interactions for life.
You’re now aware of what exactly happens at the end of your life, and how to find more meaning in both life and death.
You’ve grown to embrace laughter, simplicity, joy, relationships, and the magical feeling of being most glorified in God by being most satisfied in Him.
Ultimately, you have discovered and learned how to implement a wide variety of potent tools, tactics, and habits for enhancing your spiritual stamina and endurance.
So what’s next?
How can you not be that person who finishes learning about concepts like spiritual stamina and endurance, nods their head in agreement, feels inspired to experience a life saturated with persistence, perseverance, and patience, then gets completely derailed as all the distractions, busy-ness and old routines and habits seem to set right back in?
Perhaps it would be helpful to briefly review a few key habits that you can implement now so that doesn’t happen to you.
So in today's article, I'll give you a simple seven-count list of my own personal tips to make this all doable—without you feeling as though you need to drop everything now to go read the entire Bible, sign up for five different volunteer organizations in your community, go on a ten-day silent meditation retreat, and sell all that you own to live a life of puritanical, sanctimonious Stoicism.
Seven Simple Habits For Spiritual Stamina
- For the next week, commit to reading the Bible, every day. Any habit like this that you want to “stick” needs a very low barrier-to-entry, so just keep it by your bedside and do it first thing, before you even get out of bed. You may eventually branch out and find a special place and time to read in another fashion, but for now, trust me: start in bed, first thing. Download the YouBible app if you need a plan to follow. If you’re new to the Bible, I recommend the First Steps Reading plan by Wayne Cordeiro on the YouBible app or website.
- For the next week, do the exact morning and evening spiritual disciplines journaling, meditation, and prayer protocol I write about here. As a reminder, this will take you 5-10 minutes in the morning and 3-6 minutes in the evening. Finish with the Lord’s Prayer. You’ll have that prayer memorized within a week, I guarantee.
- For the next week, pray before breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Just thank God for the food and ask Him to bless it to your body. That’s it.
- Today, purchase an inexpensive bracelet from a website like Amazon (mine cost five bucks), and as soon as it arrives, begin to pray every time you look at it. What exactly should you pray? Simply utter a gratitude prayer for whatever it is you’re experiencing at that moment (quite literally: “thank you, God”), pray for someone or something you know needs prayer at that time (such as the person you named in your journal that day), or simply tell God “I am here,” then take 30-60 seconds of silence to listen to His still, small voice in the silence.
- For the next week, if you suspect you are addicted to, excessively reliant upon, or emotionally, psychologically, or biologically attached to anything, then look at it and say, as Anthony De Mello recommends in his book Awareness:
“I really do not need you to be happy. I’m only deluding myself in the belief that without you I will not be happy. But I really don’t need you for my happiness; I can be happy without you. You are not my happiness, you are not my joy.”
I challenge you this week to say that statement to anything and everything you're attached to. Verbally, aloud and enthusiastically. Memorize this statement if you must. I did, then I spent a month practicing saying this phrase – even to my morning cup of coffee – and it was quite powerful and eye-opening.
As you begin this practice, also consider the following: in the same way that it is not within your human power to resist every last temptation that this world throws at you, it is also not within your human power to fully detach from anything in life. To experience both resistance to temptation and release from attachments, you must rely upon the power that God bestows upon you. Read Chapter 1 of Fit Soul, and/or read this article to learn plenty more about this strategy of detachment.
- For the next week, listen to one song per day that charges you up, inspires you, gives you goosebumps, or makes you want to move your body. You can even play it immediately after you’ve read your Bible—meaning, for this first week, right when you get out of bed in the morning. I’ve personally found this is a wonderful and inspiring way to begin the day (I literally dance my way down to the living room to make coffee or tea as my song plays). Sing, dance, move, and smile as the music plays. Don’t worry: life won’t pass you by as you spend three to six minutes enjoying the emotional, psychological, biological, and spiritual benefits of interacting with a good tune. During a work break, a commute, or directly before dinner is another good time for a practice like this. Here's one of my favorite songs I've been waking up to lately.
- For the next week, do one nice thing for someone, every day. Make your loved one coffee and bring it to them. Give cash to a homeless person. Help somebody carry their groceries to their car. Leave the server a surprisingly larger-than-normal tip. Buy the person behind you in line at a coffee shop or grocery store their coffee or tea or groceries. Drop some packaged food off at the soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Send your Mom or Dad or Grandma or Grandpa a nice card with a handwritten note. Walk over to your neighbor’s house and ask them if they need help with anything. You get the idea. I think you’ll find this practice to be less of a teeth-gritting, begrudgingly time-consuming activity than you may think.
That’s it. Those are just seven habits that you implement over the next seven days. Do you think you can do it? I know you can and I guarantee if you implement nothing else or take nothing else away from anything I've ever written, these seven habits alone will change your life and make you far more impactful for loving God, loving others, and increasing your spiritual stamina and endurance.
Not By Your Strength…
Finally, resistance to temptation accompanied by the ability to be able to run this spiritual marathon that you and I are in is not something we can do on our own, no matter how many fancy journals, single-minded resoluteness, tools, tactics, programming, scheduling, or even Bible reading and prayer that we weave into our daily lives.
See, no matter how hard you and I try to be a good person, our passions and desires run so contrary to our natural inclinations that it eventually becomes utterly impossible to run the race relying upon our own strength and willpower.
This is because, as Galatians 5:16-17 says, we wage a constant war against the carnal, sinful desires of our flesh:
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would.”
But in the passage above, Paul also reveals a secret to eventually winning this battle between the flesh and the Spirit, namely to “walk by the Spirit.” In other words, if living a life fully immersed in loving God and loving others seems too difficult, we must remember that we are not called to pull this off by ourselves. We can only endure when we walk by the Spirit of God—otherwise, resistance to temptation becomes hopelessly hard and ultimately impossible.
So what does it mean to walk by the Spirit?
First, it means living each day in perpetual prayer, immersion in Scripture, and union with God.
Second, it means to love God and love others. As Paul also says in that same chapter, in Galatians 5:13, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” and in verse 22, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…”. So to walk in the Spirit means to bear the fruit of the Spirit, especially, and greatest of all, expressing and experiencing love for God and love for others throughout each day.
Backing this up, in Colossians 3:12-14, Paul says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Third, denying and “crucifying” the flesh requires us to save by the blood of Jesus Christ (read Chapter 20 for more on how exactly that is done). Galatians 5:24 says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” and Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Related to that third point, does that mean that if you struggle with temptation, you aren’t a Christian? Not really. A Christian is not necessarily a person who experiences no temptations or bad desires. Rather, a Christian is a person who is aware that they are at war with those desires, and someone who understands that they are indeed engaged in a sort of competition—a daily battle against the flesh. So you should actually take heart if your spirit feels like a battlefield sometimes because that’s a sign that you haven’t actually set up shop to live in daily comfort with your fleshly desires, but rather that you are at war with them because you care so much about loving God and loving others!
And when you walk by the Spirit, that broken flesh will ultimately be conquered. You can mount up with wings like an eagle, you can run and not be weary, you can walk and not faint.
You can walk with confidence, knowing that you will never be tempted beyond what you are able, because as with any temptation, God has promised that He will make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
You can run with endurance the race that is set before you, looking to Jesus, the author, and finisher of your faith, who for the joy that was set before him also endured, even to the cross.
You can rejoice in hope and be patient in tribulation.
You can be strengthened with all might, according to God’s glorious power, for all patience and long-suffering with joy.
You can receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
You can, by God’s grace, endure.
What do you think? Do you plan to try any of the habits I've laid out in this article? Do you have others you've found to be helpful for building up your spiritual fitness? Leave your comments, questions, and feedback below. I read them all. Finally, if you enjoyed this article, you may also dig my article “Principles,” in which I lay out more simple principles for health, fitness, sleep, and more in a similar “minimal effective dose” of simplicity format.