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I wondered if the “secret” title would get attention? Really, it is a bit of a joke to myself, because articles or books that claim to have a spiritual secret or key have always bothered me. It is not that simple! Of course, there are essential Christian truths we need to know in order to grow spiritually. We need to be grounded in biblical truth about Christ and the gospel. But that is not what I am talking about here, rather, it is when people proclaim a certain spiritual technique or idea to be “the” secret or key.

However, in a New Year, I do want to offer a suggestion the could perhaps help you develop better spiritual habits and routines. What?

Do what works for YOU! Know yourself. Don’t try to force yourself to fit into spiritual habits that clash with how God made you. I think some of us, from certain Christian backgrounds, are held captive by spiritual growth rules such as:

  • Begin the day with God. Set the alarm 30 minutes early to pray and read your Bible.
  • Read the Bible through every year.
  • Have “devotions” every day.

These things may work for some, but not all of us. We try these things time after time, fail to keep the routine, and then feel like a failure. Others may indirectly (or directly) make us feel like spiritual delinquents. We may actually end up fulfilling this accusation because, in our failure to follow the rules, we end up with inconsistent or even non-existent spiritual routines. This leaves us weak and powerless as Christians.

What is the “simple” solution?

Stop being held captive by these so-called rules!
Be free! Know yourself.
Adapt ideas for spiritual growth to fit YOUR life.

For example, I am a natural night owl, and I worked evening or night shift for many years. While no longer employed, I am still not a morning person. Praying and reading the Bible in the morning? That would be very non-productive, as I am groggy, semi-conscious, and slow to wake up. Bible reading and prayer is something I accomplish better in the evening or just before going to bed. By ending my day with God, I am in one sense beginning my day with God – as ideas from the night before can remain fresh in my mind the next day.

Even if you are not a night owl like me, is the morning ideal for you to spend time with God? (Maybe it is! Great!) But perhaps mornings are a hectic and overwhelming time. Our lives are all different. When would be a good time? Maybe it would be better for you to pray and read your Bible when…the kids take a nap in the afternoon, or on your lunch break at work.

Bible reading? I have addressed Bible reading in other posts, like this one: It is a New Year. Maybe you don’t need a Bible reading plan?

Yes, you read that right. Maybe you don’t need a Bible reading plan!

Are you failing at Bible reading every year? As the saying goes, “insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results”! – Stop the insanity! Read the linked post for ideas. Try some new approaches, and do what works for you – even if it goes contrary to typical Bible reading rules or norms.

A final thought…Daily devotions. These times can be productive or non-productive. A good idea or spiritual rule can go wrong. I fear some Christians have missed the point. They are not actually going deeper or growing spiritually, but are self-deceived by their routine.

Are you self-deceived?

Because they read a quick, uplifting, one-page devotional – based on one Scripture verse – and say a brief prayer, they have “checked the box” for their daily quiet time. Five minutes, 7 days a week – for a total of 35 minutes a week – and that is their total personal time with God. Hmm. Related thoughts in this post: One minute devotionals?Instead of devotionals everyday, it could be better to find longer lengths of time to commit to your spiritual life. For example, two one-hour segments where you can delve deeper.

I hope my rambling thoughts have not muddied the water! There IS a time and place for discipline. Maybe you are just lazy and lack commitment. Set the alarm 30 minutes early to spend time with God! Follow the Bible reading plan! –  Just do it! Persevere.

A reader of my blog left this comment after the Bible reading plan post that I thought was a good summation:

“There’s something to be said for discipline of course… but like so many noble goals (diets, exercise regimens, writing word count goals, etc), it doesn’t do any good if we quit because it’s the wrong option for us.”

If you are failing because you keep choosing options that don’t work for you and your life – there is indeed a “secret” or simple solution:

Choose options that will work for you! Break free from so-called spiritual life rules or norms if they are hurting rather than helping you.

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