Week 11, Day 3: Rule & Rhythms of Life

In the midst of our busy lives, we might often be tempted to think about trying to achieve balance for our lives, finding the point of equilibrium between work and play and family and friends where we feel the most fulfilled — busy but not overworked, social but not worn out, stretched but not burning out. But life is always in motion. To use the analogy of a rower in a boat on a river, what is needed is not balance (to keep from tipping over) but rhythm (to move in the desired direction).

In crafting a “rule of life,” our spiritual practice for the week, we think very intentionally about what disciplines and habits we desire to build into our lives as the structure for the work God will do through us by his Spirit. According to a paper published by a researcher at Duke University, “more than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits.” So the habits we cultivate intentionally are important!

Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “A good person is not [the one] who does the right thing, but [the one] who is in the habit of doing the right thing.” This is how Scottish evangelist Oswald Chambers puts it:

The question of forming habits on the basis of the grace of God is a very vital one. To ignore it is to fall into the snare of the Pharisee — the grace of God is praised, Jesus Christ is praised, the Redemption is praised, but the practical everyday life evades working it out. If we refuse to practice, it is not God’s grace that fails when a crisis comes, but our own nature. When the crisis comes, we ask God to help us, but He cannot if we have not made our nature our ally. The practicing is ours, not God’s. God regenerates us and puts us in contact with all His divine resources, but He cannot make us walk according to His will.

 

As we’ve been learning throughout this experience, we have a part to play.

One of the things I created to help Christians follow Jesus well is called the SPIRES Plan. It’s an adaptation of the Rule of Life, crafted to help people intentionally and holistically create space in their lives for God and cultivate awareness of God already at work in their lives. SPIRES is just an acronym for Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Relational, Emotional, and Serving, trying to name some of the areas in our lives.

There are two parts to the SPIRES Plan. Part One involves looking back, taking stock of the condition of your life so that you can be more aware of where God might be asking you to make changes or go deeper. 

  • After spending a moment in prayer, asking God to show you where you’re at right now, rate your health (from 1-10) in each of the SPIRES areas over the last period of time; you can think about it over the last year or last quarter, for example. This is a calibration exercise not a condemnation exercise, so acknowledge where scores may be lower than you would like but recognize that it’s what you do about it (and how you seek to grow) that counts.

  • Next, consider the factors that contributed to that rating — the things that nourished you in that area or the things that drained you. The reason we do this is so that we might pinpoint whether, for example, something is a trend or a habit that needs to be arrested or continued, or a freak incident, or something over which you have no control.

  • After completing Part One, take a moment to thank God for his faithfulness and that his grace covers everything you’ve ever done and ever will do.

Part Two is about looking forward, putting into place structures on which to hang your soul-training practices. This may contain several goals for growth as well as concrete steps toward them.

  • Again, before you begin, ask God to show you what he wants you to see.

  • It can be helpful to think through this in terms of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and even yearly rhythms. Here are some examples to get you started, rolling in a few of the practices we’ve learned over the last few weeks.

  • Daily rhythms might include:

    • beginning your day with (at least) five minutes of silent reflection and listening every day to regularly make space for God to speak;

    • reading something from the Bible, either inductively or using lectio divina (perhaps even alternating by the day);

    • ending your day with a time of examen prayer.

  • Weekly rhythms might include:

    • setting aside one day a week as a sabbath, a day when you intentionally reconnect with God (in whatever ways that best happens for you);

    • working out a few times a week in order to maintain your physical health — your body is, after all, “a temple of the Holy Spirit”;

    • limiting the amount of time you watch Netflix or TV;

    • volunteering one evening a week to serve at an organization in your neighborhood.

  • Monthly rhythms might include:

    • scheduling a half-day of prayer, to have some extended time with God;

    • investing in important friendships by putting dinners on the calendar;

    • checking over your budget and making sure your finances are in order.

 

Remember, habits can take a while to cultivate, and when we first start, they can be a struggle. But this is one of the reasons why community is so important — we can encourage one another and hold each other accountable on the journey of living like Jesus.

REFLECT & RESPOND

  • Head: What habits do you think would be helpful for you to pick up in order to help your spiritual growth?

  • Heart: Are there any things you’d like to cut out of your life, or decrease?

  • Hands: Spend time working through the SPIRES Plan and share something you’re committing to with at least one person.

PRAY 

Ask God if there are rhythms of life he’d like you to put in place.

SPIRES stands for Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Relational, Emotional, and Serving.

© 2020 by Justin B. Fung

Christ City Church, Washington, D.C.