In a previous post I compared walking in the Spirit to going on a long hike with a hiking partner who is about a million times more competent than you are.
When I wrote that post, I had just come back from a backpacking trip to the Grand Canyon with my family so this experience was fresh in my mind.
1. Have a daily quiet time.
When we were hiking in the Grand Canyon, my family zoomed up the trail without getting tired. They were able to do that because they’re all in shape and exercise on a regular basis. I on the other hand am only relatively in shape. Because of that, I had a much more difficult time hiking up the trail than they did.
It’s like that with our faith as well. If we’re not in shape spiritually, we’ll have a harder time walking with the Spirit when life gets difficult. We get in shape by spending time with God, by abiding in His Word, and by regularly discussing life with Him and trying to see it through His eyes.
2. Learn to recognize when you’re no longer walking in the Spirit
When we were hiking in the Grand Canyon, it would have been almost impossible to get lost because the trail was so clearly marked.
I’ve been on other hikes, though, where the trail was less defined and it would have been easy to start wandering off in the wrong direction.
Regular life is more like that skimpy trail. It’s easy to lose sight of God because there are so many things that distract us. One of the best ways to tell whether or not we’re walking in the Spirit is to look at whether or not we’re displaying the fruit of the Spirit.
In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul tells us that if we walk in the Spirit, we’ll receive the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
So whenever we’re not experiencing that fruit—in other words, whenever we’re feeling unloving, discontent, stressed out, inpatient, unkind, bad, unfaithful, demanding, and out of control—it’s probably a pretty good sign we’re not walking in the Spirit and that we need to reconnect with Him. This leads us to our next step:
3. Go to God for help as soon as possible when life gets difficult.
But the farther down that canyon we went, the more difficult it became to get back to the top.
It’s like that in regular life too. It’s so easy to work ourselves into a dither, getting all stressed out, worried, annoyed, or obsessed with our goals. And the more worked up we get, the harder it is to get out of all that turmoil.
How much better—and easier—it would be to catch those feelings in the early stages—before the frenzy hits. If we do that, it will just take a few minutes to reconnect with God, to see the situation from His perspective, to let go of whatever we need to let go of, and to be back in love, joy, and peace land. We could do that no matter how busy we are.
If we instead wait until we’re caught up in a frenzy, it takes much longer to get back into fellowship with Him.
When I go to God for help with my problems, it feels like I’m in a counseling session with the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t feel that way when I’m just urging God to solve all my problems pronto, but it does feel that way when I’m renewing my mind and trying to see things from His perspective.
4. Have regular retreat days with God or longer times of prayer and fellowship.
When we were hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, it was easy to walk without breaks because the hiking was so easy. But on the way up, we had to take a few rest stops.
It’s like that in regular life too. The more difficult life is, the more time we need to spend with God. Just think of Jesus. When He was at the height of His ministry, surrounded by people who were asking for help, He took long breaks, leaving everyone and going off by himself up a mountain to talk to God.
Brad Bigney, author of Gospel Treason (a great book on idolatry), gave some good advice at a biblical counseling seminar I attended. At the beginning of each year, he takes out his day planner and schedules six one-day-long prayer retreats. One every two months. These retreats help him stay focused on God and not get caught up in the demands of being a busy pastor and counselor.
When my kids were little, I would sometimes go on one day retreats to a town an hour away. I’d head for the university library and spend a few hours with God, reading my Bible, praying, and truth journaling. I still do that and they’re always great times of refreshment and renewal.
5. Develop the habit of talking to Him throughout the day
When I’m walking on flat ground, I don’t mind being quiet. But when I’m climbing a mountain (or to the top of the Grand Canyon), I like to talk–the more intense the subject the better–because it keeps my mind off the difficulties of the trail.
It’s the same with life. Talking to God throughout the day helps us focus on Him and not on how difficult life is. It will also deepen our relationship with Him. Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence is a great book on this subject.
It’s a Walk
Any time you start a new endeavor, it can be overwhelming. You think, How can I ever learn how to do this? The truth is, we’re rarely good at new habits when we first start out. Instead, we start out with a bunch of failure and then learn as we go.
It’s like that in our relationship with God as well. Each new habit that brings us closer to Him starts out with one step. But the more we walk the path, the easier it gets.
A Renewing of the Mind Project
I wrote the Renewing of the Mind Project to help those who want to get started on the path of consistently going to God for help with problems. In the book I encourage you to take on a renewing of the mind project – making a commitment to consistently go to God for help with one area of your life.
If you’re interested in trying this out with a group, I’ll be starting an online study next Monday, March 2, 2015. We’ll be doing some get-to-know each other activities this week so if you’re already signed up for the study, stop on over at the Facebook group page.
If you’d like more info on the study, click here. If you’d like to listen to a podcast that explains the project a bit more, click here. The emphasis of the podcast is on time management, but it still gives you an overall picture of the process.