Using a Rule of Life to Support Your Spiritual Growth
Over the centuries, Christians have used a Rule of Life to support their spiritual growth. A Rule of Life is an intentional plan to deepen our relationship with God and to receive more from Him (e.g. strength, wisdom) so that we can love and serve Him more effectively.
In his book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Peter Scazzero describes 12 aspects of a Rule of Life. I invite you to consider what you are currently doing in each of these areas and then to prayerfully discern how God might have you strengthen some of them. You may want to use the Rule of Life Worksheet as you read through the descriptions of each of the areas.
How are you currently engaging with Scripture? Perhaps, you attend a worship service at your church or participate in a small group Bible study. I have a Bible Reading Plan app on my phone that takes me through the Bible in a year. Some have found that life journaling is an effective way of capturing what God is saying through a passage. We want to engage with Scripture in such a way that we hear from God, remember, and apply what He has said throughout the day (see Random Order: Read, Memorize and Study).
Judy Brown has said, “What makes a fire burn is space between the logs, a breathing space.” Silence and solitude can create these breathing spaces, which allow us to listen to God, to discern His leading and to respond wisely and courageously.
I like to go on prayer walks each morning. For me, it’s a great way to get alone with God for a while. I will also periodically do longer prayer retreats (see Five Reasons to Go on a Prayer Retreat). Increasingly, I want to develop a lifestyle of prayer where I naturally worship, give thanks, and petition God throughout the day.
This Rule of Life element refers to intentional study of a specific topic. Lifelong learning is so important for helping us grow in our capacity to serve God more effectively.
In his book, The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan says we experience Sabbath when we stop doing what is necessary and do that which gives life. What gives you life? How are you currently taking time to focus on God and to replenish your body, mind, and spirit? Reggie McNeal reminds us that “putting off Sabbath means putting off life.”
We live in an age of distractions. Objects and activities threaten to clutter and overwhelm our lives. Living simply involves removing distractions and unnecessary attachments, so that we can focus more fully on God and live out His calling on our lives.
When I first read Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, I was a little shocked that play/recreation made it onto Scazzero’s list of spiritual disciplines. Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that these activities are essential for our well-being. True recreation leads to the re-creation of our bodies, minds, and spirits, which allows us to worship God more deeply and serve Him more effectively.
How are you living out God’s call on your life in practical ways? We know from Scripture that we have been created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand (Eph. 2:10). This passage indicates that God has a special plan for each of us. Identifying and obeying God’s call contributes to a fulfilling and fruitful ministry (see Why Understanding Your Personal Calling is Important).
Care for the Physical Body
In one of the courses that I teach through ACTS Seminaries, I ask students to track their eating and exercise patterns for a month using an app such as MyFitnessPal Calorie Counter. The goal of the activity is to promote awareness of how our diet and physical activities impact our overall health. As we take good care of our bodies as an act of worship to God, we will be in a better physical state to attend to and live out God’s call.
Emotional intelligence (EI) is a hot topic these days. The basic premise of EI is that as we become increasingly self-aware, we will be able to better manage ourselves, notice what is going on in the people around us, and manage our relationships. We can increase our self-awareness by doing things like paying attention to feelings, journaling about them, or discussing them with someone we trust. If you’re interested in increasing your emotional intelligence, I highly recommend the Emotional Intelligence 2.0 book and assessment.
When I was starting out in pastoral ministry, one of my mentors gave me a book called Man of Vision. The book chronicles the life of Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision and the person who helped Samaritan's Purse get off the ground. In the book, Marilee Pierce Dunker, one of Pierce’s daughters, describes a man deeply committed to God and His work with the poor and destitute around the world. Yet somehow, Pierce lost sight of his family. He and his wife separated and one of Pierce’s daughters committed suicide. Late in life, Pierce realized some of the errors of his ways and was reconciled to his wife. It was too late to do so with his daughter.
Reading this triumphant and tragic story as a young man had a profound influence on my life and leadership. It made me poignantly aware that leadership starts with myself and in the home.
Note: You can read a Christianity Today article, Imperfect Instrument, about Bob Pierce’s life.
We need companions in the journey of life – people who can support us along the way (and whom we can support, too). Loving, Christ-centered communities provide a place where maximum discipleship can occur.
As I mentioned at the start, I would encourage you to prayerfully consider what you are doing in each of these Rule of Life areas and how God might want you to strengthen them (you may find the Rule of Life Worksheet helpful for doing so). Of course, the Rule of Life is simply a means for growing our relationship with God and becoming more effective in serving Him. I appreciate how Richard Foster expresses this idea:
“A farmer is helpless to grow grain; all he can do is provide the right conditions for the growing of grain… This is the way it is with the spiritual disciplines – they are a way of sowing to the Spirit... By themselves the spiritual disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done.”
Randy Wollf is the Director of MinistryLift and the Assistant Professor of Practical Theology and Leadership Studies at MB Seminary. He teaches how to implement a Rule of Life in his Christian Leadership Development courses.