The challenge of walking with the God who knows me  

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Names changed throughout except in some cases where the person involved has been or is in ministry.

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If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 2 Cor 5:17

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1 Timothy 4:7 (NIV)

“Train yourself to be godly.”

I have always been a rather messy person.  In Edinburgh Jonathan, who was helping me grow in my Christian life, gave me a book for my birthday.  I remember how we both collapsed in laughter as I opened the package to see – “Mr Messy”! I did not want to be messy, so I started praying.  I had thought about this messiness for some time and had concluded that the root cause of it was an issue of a lack of self-discipline.  As a result I did not pray: “Lord help me to be a tidy person.”  No, I prayed: “Lord please give me self discipline.”

Sometimes we think that God will always answer our intention rather than our actual words, for surely he knows what we really mean better than we do.  I am sure that is often true, but on this occasion God had other ideas, he answered the prayer of my words, and even here he did not answer as one would normally have expected.

Some time after starting to pray this prayer, I found that I was having difficulty getting to sleep.  It was not long before I began to work out that there was a pattern to this lack of sleep.  It went like this: If I had not, during the day fulfilled the spiritual commitments that I had previously made to the Lord, that is: had a quiet time, read three chapters of the Bible, and reviewed a section of previously memorised verses, then I would not be able to get to sleep.  It did not matter what the time was.  It did not matter how tired I was.  It didn’t even matter how important that sleep was for the next day.  If I had missed out on any one of these three things then I could not sleep.  At first I was quite resentful.  I remember getting out of bed at 2:00 or 3:00 AM on several occasions with steam coming out of my ears.  At other times I would stay in bed frustrated, waiting for the sleep that never came.  God had certainly found the right handle to turn!  In the end I began to take it with a bit of a smile.  Eventually I was even able to be thankful, that He considered this discipline sufficiently important to go through the fight with me.  It was not that these things are absolutes in the Christian life, rather, these were the disciplines that I had determined previously before God that I would do.  He was holding me to my word.

One of the affects of this period of training was that I began to have to think of bed time differently.  I had to realise that everyone else could judge their bed time at half an hour later than me, because they did not have to stay up that bit extra to read the Bible and review verses.  So I was forced to start making my own decisions about when to leave a group or a party instead of depending on others to make the decision and follow them.

Some years later I discovered that God was no longer demanding these disciplines in the same way.  It was as if the lesson was learned and I could go on.  However, the message that had been burned into me was that these things were important to God and it was worth being inconvenienced by them a little, because he values them.

Thankfully, within a few years he also dealt with my problem of messiness, and in a way that was far more wonderful than increasing self-discipline! – He brought me an organised and tidy wife: Eva. :-)   And maybe the spiritual disciplines were an important part in this process, for would I have been worthy of such a godly woman without having spent the time with God that these disciplines of the Christian life gave me?