As a SEND missionary, do you ever feel lagging in spiritual power or genuine transformation? How about those you have the privilege of leading to Christ or discipling – do you observe them experiencing consistent growth into Christ-likeness? If you’re feeling discouraged in either of these areas, I encourage you to read John Ortberg’s book The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People. It provides a fresh, practical, and biblical challenge towards growing in Christ-likeness through the practice of spiritual disciplines.
A sad commentary on the state of today’s church is that “by and large we do not expect people to experience ongoing transformation.” Ortberg however believes that genuine transformation — being changed into Christ-likeness — should be the norm for Christian life. A problem often occurs, though, in that believers who desire transformation try harder and harder until they are exhausted but still not experiencing the transformation they desire. Ortberg proposes that it’s not about trying harder (like an out-of-shape person trying to run a marathon), but training consistently. His purpose in writing the book is to help the reader learn how to train by using every moment, every activity of life, for transformation purposes. The practice of these consistent training activities (spiritual disciplines) will help a person gain power to live life as Jesus taught and modeled it – “The Life You’ve Always Wanted.”
Ortberg discusses several spiritual disciplines, including prayer, servanthood, confession, secrecy, and reflection on Scripture. The first “discipline” he tackles, though, is the one I found most refreshing. His chapter on “The Practice of Celebration” is an invitation to be intentional about finding, experiencing and expressing joy in everyday life.
“God is the happiest being in the universe . . . and God’s intent was that His creation would mirror His joy . . . Joy is a command. Joylessness is a serious sin.”
Another challenging chapter focuses on “The Unhurried Life” where Ortberg digs deep into advice from one of his spiritual mentors: “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
“Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. Hurry can destroy our souls . . . The great danger . . . is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of [spiritual life].”
If there is one thing that initially seems to be lacking in this book, it would be directed reflection to help the reader apply the principles that are being presented. This is easily remedied, though, as the book now contains a study guide. It is also available with curriculum for small groups, including a DVD, leader’s guide, and student workbooks. Let’s pursue with renewed vigor the abundant life our Lord came to give us, “The Life We’ve Always Wanted.”