Are You Living Your Faith In Real Life?
By Leslie Vernick
I was baking cupcakes with my granddaughters when we got stuck. We needed to figure out how to divide two thirds of a cup in half. I turned to my daughter to ask her when she said, “Don't look at me, you know I hated fractions.”
I understood her shame. Math was never my strong suite either. No matter how much I studied math facts in school; those tricky word problems exposed my weakness. What I knew on one level, I couldn’t apply in another.
In the same way many of us also struggle with real life spiritual applications. For example, we know Jesus says we should forgive people, but how do we do it when our husband cheats on us and repeatedly lies to us?
We know we shouldn’t let the sun go down on our anger, but how do we let go of our hurt and anger when our teenager has defied our rules and broken our heart? We know that the Bible says that God loves us and we are his precious daughters, but how to we live like that’s true when we don’t feel anything like a daughter of the King; instead we feel more like an abandoned orphan?
Whether our learning is educational or spiritual, it must become personal in order for it to move from our head to our heart and become practically useful. It did me no good for me to learn French in high school and college and then never speak it. Proverbs 24:32 says, “I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.”
Below are five practices that can help informational become transformational truth.
1. Read the Bible out loud, or listen to it audibly on CD. Sometimes when we read the same Bible verses over and over again they start to get stale and fail to grab our heart in fresh ways. Listening to God’s word helps you hear things differently and more personally, like he’s speaking just to you.
2. Memorize a portion of Scripture that has an action step. For example, James 1:19 says, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Challenge yourself to memorize a new verse each month, not merely learning the verse but also intentionally practicing what it says for the entire month. You’ll be amazed at your transformation by the end of one year.
3. Slow down. Sometimes when I read my Bible, I feel like I’m rushing to get a certain amount read each day. Although I’ve loved reading the entire Bible in a year, sometimes I am none the wiser because of it. Slow down your reading. Focus your attention on a few words, or a single phrase. Psalm 23 is a wonderful psalm to savor. Begin with the first line, “The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything that I need.” What does that mean to you? Is he your shepherd? In this moment, right now, can you trust God has your needs met? If not what? What holds you back? Talk to God about that.
4. Meditate. This practice focuses your intellect, reason, imagination and will on a particular topic, story, verse, or image, allowing God to speak to your heart in specific ways. The Psalmist says, “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word” (Psalm 119:15,16).
While meditating in Luke 5, I read the familiar story of Jesus asking Peter to let down his nets to catch some fish. Peter had been fishing all night long, with no success. Peter was tired. Jesus asked Peter to use one of his boats so that he could preach but now he told Peter to go further out and let down his nets. Peter was dog tired. He had already cleaned his nets and explained that to Jesus, but then Peter said something else that caused me pause. He said, “We worked hard all night and didn’t catch a thing, but if you say so, I’ll do it.” How many times do I argue with God that I’m tired, I’ve already tried that, it didn’t work, no success. Yet Peter said, “Because you said so, I will do it.”
5. Go silent. What would it be like for you to spend a day or weekend with no cell phone, computer, television or talking? To be all alone with God? We live in a world that bombards our senses. Rarely do we take time out of our demanding lives for quiet and solitude.
Yet God says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). It’s often in those quiet times where God shows up. Practicing silence even for five or ten minutes at first can be quite unnerving. Yet, by carving out periods of time whereby we are quiet, both our inner life and our outer life become renewed. It is in this space that we not only come to understand our own thoughts better, but to begin to grasp the mind of God.
Learning without application isn’t real learning. It’s head knowledge, not heart change. The Lord asks, “For who is he who will devote himself to be close to me” (Jeremiah 30:21)? Will you?