When Darrell Waltrip published his autobiography he gave it a perfect title—DW: A Lifetime Going Around in Circles. That’s what NASCAR drivers have done from the beginning.
When NASCAR’s Grand National circuit began, drivers went around in circles and ovals, making nothing but left-hand turns. In 1954, NASCAR’s first road course was opened on the concrete runways and taxiways of the Linden, New Jersey, airport. It was a two-mile, five-turn course with turns both ways; but in essence, it was still a big circle with dents and dimples along the way.
That’s a lot like life, and that’s why we can identify with Waltrip’s title. Even in our Christian experience, we sometimes feel we’re going around in monotonous circles. But just as a NASCAR race is carefully planned to the last turn and final second, our Christian lives need to be strategized, too, so that we can make sure we aren’t just spinning round and round, but that we’re going forward, going onward, and growing. That involves regular Bible study, of course, and prayer and church attendance. But there are other spiritual disciplines not as well-known which are essential for growth. Let me mention a few of them to you.
The first is solitude. Jesus himself frequently withdrew for seclusion, prayer, and renewal. We must learn to be still so we can think clearly, pray earnestly, and know that He is God. Do you have regular moments of silence? Solitude? Consider devoting an entire day to prayer, rest, and meditation.
Our spiritual growth is also enhanced by having a prayer partner. Some prayer partners get together every day or every week, others only once a month; some, separated by distance, are unable to pray together physically, but they share their requests one with the other across the miles.
Reading is also a vital spiritual discipline. Even when imprisoned on death row, the aged Paul asked Timothy to bring his “books and parchments.” Some of the greatest missionaries, preachers, and Christian thinkers of the ages are available on your ten-inch bookshelf, just waiting to enrich your heart and stimulate your mind. Many of them are now available for our computers and portable electronic devices. They can travel with us wherever we go. Yet most Christians spend far more time watching television than enriching the soul by reading. Rediscover the spiritual discipline of “the books and the parchments.”
Another spiritual discipline is fasting. Don’t be overwhelmed at the thought of fasting. It might be something as simple as skipping lunch once a month to devote that hour to a particular prayer concern. While the Bible doesn’t command fasting, it does commend fasting.
Another important spiritual discipline is confession. Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12), and John wrote, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
You may think you have an “innocent little sin” under control, but the Bible warns that it’s the little foxes that destroy the vines. It might be a root of bitterness toward someone who has wronged you. Or a defiled thought life. It might be things you’re listening to or viewing. It might be neglect of worship or a failure to obey God with your finances.
Spiritual growth involves daily confession and repentance, even as the Psalmist prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
In Deuteronomy 2:3 of The Message, the Lord said to Moses, “You’ve been going around in circles . . . long enough.” Maybe the Lord is saying the same thing to you. Maybe it’s time to really start growing, not just in the common disciplines of Bible study and prayer, but in every area of life, including the neglected habits of solitude, prayer partnering, reading, fasting, and honest and open confession of sin.
These practices are not ends in themselves, but means of grace designed to deepen your personal relationship with the Lord—and in the process, they may keep you from a lifetime of going around in circles.
Dr. Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and senior pastor of
Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California.
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