ROUTINE! What pops into your mind when you hear that word? Does it excite you at the thought of something familiar? Or, does it make your stomach turn a bit at the thought of doing something over and over and over again?
The Dictionary defines routine as, “commonplace tasks, chores or duties as must be done regularly.”
My favorite definition of the word routine is by Eugene Peterson,” A Long Obedience In The Same Direction.” He also wrote a book with the same title.
In this book he brings clarity to the idea of making a commitment, or in my case, accepting a challenge, and following through on it til the end no matter the cost. Too often, we make a commitment, or accept a challenge and when the “routine” of it falls into place, we quit, we give up, we find excuses to rationalize why it’s perfectly fine for us to throw in the towel and not complete the course.
If it were not for the strength of God living in and through me, I would too, easily quit, throw in the towel, and give up. The struggle I must face and deal with, each and everyday, for it truly is a daily struggle, is to create a daily routine that begins and ends with each new day. To think beyond that, can set us up for failure. But when I take each day that God has given me and say, “this is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it,” and then ask Him to give me the strength to follow through on my commitment that day, then I am learning the “routine” of spiritual discipline and commitment. As I routinely practice that “routine” every morning, I find that Day 1 turns into Day 2, and then into Day 9, and then into Day 16. And I can say in confidence to my God who gives me the ability to persevere, “Thank you for the grace to have accomplished my challenge one more day!”
The strongest Biblical example that I draw strength from in this area is Daniel. As a young man, kidnapped and taken from his family and country, he did not let his circumstances of fear, doubt, change, etc, veer him from his routine. Daniel was committed to God and to daily discipline that kept his physical body, his emotional body and his spiritual body clean and right before God. Allowing him to be in the best, physical, emotional and spiritual health no matter where he was or what he had to deal with. Even while tempted with the richest of foods that royalty had to offer, Daniel remained true to his God and to his routine.
Daniel 1:8, “But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. he asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.”
Daniel makes this commitment and sets this standard for all of us when he was a “young man.” The true encouragement and inspiration comes as we follow Daniel through his life, and see that the commitment to this godly routine was maintained throughout his lifetime! As a much older man, Daniel is faced again with a great challenge, and we see him continue to remain faithful to his God and his routine. They tried to trap Daniel because they knew that he prayed to God, three times every day! When faced with prison or even death, Daniel’s routine had become his lifestyle and he would not stray from it. The king’s decree went forth not to pray to any other god, but Daniel kept doing what he routinely did!
Daniel 6:20 says, “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”
We live in a culture of indulgences. We open up a refrigerator or a cupboard full of food and say, “we have nothing to eat,” which actually means we don’t have what we want to eat. One television in our homes isn’t enough, we need one in every room. Our car isn’t “nice” enough, so we overextend ourselves and take on the big payment because we “need” it. We have a nice two bedroom house, but another baby is on the way so we need a bigger one. We don’t like someone we work with or we feel misunderstood, so we quit that job and get another. We don’t like the sermon the pastor preached that last weekend so we church hop, looking for the next best one to meet our personal taste and need. And the word routine becomes boring and easily expendable and traded in for something new. So we quit and move onto the next “latest and greatest.” But when it comes to our spiritual lives, when it comes to making a commitment to God, this can prove to hurt us in a deep way. We want the end result of glory, without the daily grind of routine.
Eugene Peterson puts it eloquently when he says, “There is a great market for religious experience in our world. There is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.”
Anything worth the end prize will take a dedicated routine of daily sacrifice.
My sixteen days living out my challenge have not been easy, or without sacrifice. However, after only sixteen days, I feel a stronger sense of commitment and dedication, and a true sense of believing that with Christ as my strength, I truly can accomplish the challenge He has set before me!
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
I pray that whatever challenge you are facing, you would be able to give it to God daily and develop the routine of godly discipline!
Speak Truth Love