It can be overwhelming to prepare a capstone-like summation of coursework in discussion form at the end of a class. As noted in the course shell, we have been building a plan of action for our personalized “spiritual practice” since the first session. I love the question, “What is your plan for a preferred spiritual future?” Last winter I told my pastor, “I want to grow spiritually in the next six months more than I have grown so far in my Christian life.” This class started at a time close to the end of that six-month period. I believe this is no coincidence.
I related well to the experience of James Bryan Smith described in “The Jogging Monk and the Exegesis of the Heart.” For most of my life, I thought I needed to “understand” something before I could do what it suggested. I was told this was merely a well-camouflaged form of procrastination. Thankfully, this week’s exercise proves otherwise. Our approach to the Word of God must fit the task at hand: epistemology, hermeneutics, exegesis, exposition, word studies. But we cannot take an “investigative” approach when reading Scripture for devotion, instruction, or edification. As the monk in the article told Smith, “You cannot make yourself sleep, but you can create the conditions that allow sleep to happen. All I want you to do is create the conditions: Open your Bible, read it slowly, listen to it, and reflect on it.” For me, learning this approach is the capstone for my experience in this class. It is exactly what I needed to learn at just the right time.
I chose to read and meditate on a key verse for me: “[F]or God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7, NRSV).
What did it teach you?
No matter the need or the situation, it is God who provides. No longer must I be a “coward,” as I was for most of my life. For it is not my power, but the power God has been instilled in me, that allows me to stand firm in boldness. I also learned that courage comes not only from having a “power source” but from soundness of mind—having understanding and judgment to weather the circumstance.
What did it say to you?
I have used this verse for inspiration and encouragement for several years. It became a great source of comfort during recovery from active addiction. I took much stock in its promise. God has blessing me with courage and soundness of mind I need to let go of my past and my finite solutions and turn to God for strength and wisdom. It also spoke to me from an apologetic perspective. As I prepare for ministry in evangelism and apologetics, the power and Spirit of God will embolden me to stand against the isms prevalent in today’s post-Christian culture and equip me to make a defense for the hope that is in me that Jesus Christ is the Messiah.
Were you struck by anything?
I was able to see a thread running through Scripture, from Jonah and Joseph through David and Samson; from Matthew and Stephen through Paul and Peter—men who stood steadfast in faith and courage, not doubt and fear. I recognized God’s providence in every situation. I also saw that this verse speaks of the Spirit that God gave us. It is this “spirit” Paul was expressing to Timothy in the first epistle. The first seven verses of 2 Timothy 1 are addressed to a man of God, doing the work of an evangelist—a category that includes all who are called of God to serve, even in the twenty-first century. The same power, love, and soundness of mind available to Paul and Timothy is available to me today.
Did you experience God in your reading?
Yes. I had a strong sense of His presence and inner peace. I was aware that I will stand and serve God no matter what it might cost me. I sensed He knows I am willing to die for my Christian belief; that I would never renounce Him to avoid persecution, torture, or even death. I became emotional, realizing I have truly begun to see that I am crucified with Christ. I could see two “sides” of me, and felt strongly that I am “removed” from my sins as far as the east is from the west.
I am so happy this class reminded me of the five steps of lectio devina which I learned about in my class on hermeneutics. The process begins with reading a passage slowly and carefully, then opening a dialog with God about what I read. I have always enjoyed meditating on Scripture, but I have a better sense lately of the need for doing so as a daily routine. Contemplation involves focusing on a key thought or word from what I read and waiting on God to quicken it in my spirit. Resting in God’s presence is key to knowing His will. Then, I can “go and do likewise.” I feel honored and blessed to be called to ministry. For years, I thought I was lost to God, never to return. I felt “too damaged.” But God uses the broken.