I’m liking this “highly effective” thing. I like to think of myself as “highly effective.” But when I dare to look at the seven habits (check out "Joy of the Disciplined Woman") I change my mind. Don’t get me wrong, I’m effective at some things…eating, sleeping, sitting, and how about playing? Wait…I think I hear my mom coming…just a second…oh, sorry everyone, I’m supposed to be writing a serious article here. We are gonna have to save the rest of my highly effective activities for another time.
Okay, serious start…It’s time for Effective Habit #2: She maintains the practice of the spiritual disciplines.
Two years ago, I had the huge privilege of leading a discipleship group full of godly women in which we took nine months to study biblical womanhood in a more in-depth way. We read many books and articles and listened to lots of messages. We had discussions and even took a personal retreat. We also kept track of our personal practice of the spiritual disciplines. We wrote down how long we spent with the Lord each day, and at each meeting we went around the group and read these times aloud.
At the end of the year, I had everyone fill out an evaluation form — to find out what had been most helpful and what could be improved upon. What was the answer to the “most helpful” question on almost every form? I wouldn’t have guessed, but it was our little practice of keeping track of our times with the Lord.
You see, the spiritual disciplines were reaping big fruit in the lives of these women, some of whom had never had a consistent practice of seeking the Lord. But after doing so for nine months, they were different. The gospel had become more amazing to them. Their desire to fight sin had grown. They had experienced God’s amazing promise: that He will draw near to us when we draw near to Him (James 4:8).
The practice of the spiritual disciplines is a little like planting a seed. (Please ignore the fact that anything I have ever planted has died, and try to stick with me here.) You plant a tiny seed in the dirt and you wait…water…wait… water. (I know that there is a little more to it than that, but you get the picture). It takes time. The plant only grows after consistent, faithful tending to the seed.
I met with the Lord this morning. I’m looking pretty much the same as I did yesterday (enjoying a huge glazed donut). My husband, Mike, hasn’t told me that I look more holy than the day before. But as I read the Word and prayed this morning, I was watering. Lord willing, I will wake up tomorrow morning and do the same thing. Morning after morning of watering and waiting, and I will eventually see a little green thing sticking up out of the dirt. Growth! More watering, more waiting — more growth!
Is seeking the face of God a consistent practice in your life? If not, then may I encourage you to carefully consider how to begin. Start small. Set reasonable goals. None of this, “Tomorrow morning is the day that I start waking up at 2 a.m. and spend 3 hours in prayer and Bible study.” But rather, What does faithfulness look like for you right now? What time do you need to wake up to make it happen? How long do you need to spend? Get specific. Get radical. Consider, like my discipleship group, asking someone to hold you accountable. Open up this area of your life to another and receive the grace of God that accompanies humility. You will soon reap a precious harvest — growth in godliness.
Note: Our goal in keeping track of our time with the Lord was not to promote legalism, but rather to encourage and exhort one another to be faithful in practicing the spiritual disciplines.
For me, I find that when I see my time on paper, it gives me something objective. It doesn't tell me everything about my times with the Lord. But it can answer two important questions: To what degree am I actually pursuing God by practicing the spiritual disciplines? and What would growth in time spent with God actually look like? These are very valuable questions to ask.
You might like to take a look at the sheet that we used for this (see link at the end of this article). As you can tell, each sheet covers two weeks. I want to encourage you to give this a try. Is there someone (or a group of people) that you can draw into your life to begin this practice? You may also want to consider using this sheet for accountability with your wake-up time as well. I can testify first-hand to the difference that accountability in BOTH of these areas makes!
For a more in-depth read on this topic, check out the Mahaney's newest book: Shopping for Time: How to Do It All and NOT be Overwhelmed (Crossway, 2007)
This article was adapted from "Girl Talk" - a blog kept by Carolyn and her three daughters for women in all seasons of life.
Carolyn Mahaney is a wife, mother, homemaker, and the author of Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother, Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood and Shopping for Time: How To Do It All and Not Be Overwhelmed (written with her daughters) due out in July. During her more than 30 years as a pastor’s wife, Carolyn has spoken to women in many churches and conferences, including those of Sovereign Grace Ministries, which her husband, C.J., leads. C.J. and Carolyn have three married daughters and one fourteen-year-old son, Chad.
Nicole Whitacre is the oldest daughter of C.J. and Carolyn Mahaney, as well as a wife, mother, and homemaker. She assisted her mother with Feminine Appeal, and is the co-author of Girl Talk. Nicole and her husband Steve—who is a youth pastor at Sovereign Grace Church—have one son Jack, 4 and a newborn daughter Tori.
Kristin Chesemore and her husband Brian are the busy parents of three boys. Andrew is seven, Liam is four, and Owen is three. In the little spare time she does have, Kristin supports Brian in his role as a pastor in Family Life Ministries at Covenant Life Church.
Janelle Bradshaw has been married to her husband Mike for four years and they have a beautiful daughter Caly, 1. Mike serves as a pastor in Children’s Ministry at Covenant Life Church.
Pictured above, left-right: Janelle, Kristin, Carolyn, and Nicole