. . . [D]iscipline yourself for the purpose of godliness . . . Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them . . . (1 Timothy 4:7, 15).
It can’t be a month or so since I read this text, and was so taken – as if for the first time – by the apostle’s admonition, that I committed the passage to memory. “Discipline yourself. Take pains with the things that lead toward godliness. Be absorbed in them.”
The reason I memorized the passage is because I knew when it came to spiritual exercises, I could use more discipline. That’s why Lent this year was such a valuable experience for me. I turned off the television and the hour or more I would have spent watching dribble, I spent feeding my spirit.
There is more I want to say about my recent ‘epiphany’ – and I will return to it later. But something happened this morning as I prepared to write this blogpost that I think is more important to tell you.
Every several years I retire my old Bible and purchase a new one because over the years the notes I write to myself in the margins begin to overtake the printed text. Bindings come loose, and pages yellow and fray.
This morning, as I prepared to write my next post, I retrieved the Bible I had retired in 1995. I opened to the passage in 1 Timothy . . . and noticed I had, many years earlier, underlined the word ‘discipline’ in verse 7, had jotted “see verse 15” in the margin, and had also underlined, “Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them.”
Apparently the ‘epiphany’ I had a month or so ago about this text was not the first time I’d received it. But, Oh! How I had completely forgotten it.
From time to time I like to play a game with my Bible study group that illustrates an important point about consistent spiritual disciplines. I ask them to tell me what they had for dinner two nights ago. Most of the time only a handful of those gathered can remember. Then I bring them back five days. A week. By then, no one remembers what they had for dinner.
And I drive home the point: If we have such difficulty remembering what we had for dinner only a few nights ago, how much easier is it to forget the spiritual food we imbibed if we let days and weeks go between reading? Indeed, even with continual reading and study of God’s word, it is easy to forget earlier lessons learned. Life keeps us so very busy with . . . well, with living, that we so easily forget what we eat – or what we read in Scripture.
And so, for good reason the Holy Spirit reminds us through St. Paul, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness . . . . Take pains with these things. Be absorbed in them . . . .”
Another way of saying it might be: study God’s word. Be absorbed by it. Memorize it. Be disciplined about it.
Oh, Holy Spirit. Help us.