A Purposeful Spiritual Life, part I

What plan do you have for your spiritual life? That’s a real question. Pause and answer it. Where do you want to go spiritually? And how are you going to get there?

My hunch is that most of us don’t have a plan for our spiritual life. Most of us live as if we hope that we’ll drift into a better spiritual life. But that is a faulty assumption. Have you drifted into losing weight? Or becoming a better father? Or into your CPA?

For some reason we think that even though we make plans for improvement and we set goals in other areas, it's not necessary or spiritual for us to set out these kinds of plans for our spiritual walk. Paul says this to the Corinthian church:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control…”[i]

That is pretty abrasive language. Are we disciplining our spiritual life so as to run the race God has called us to run with the same purpose as a marathon runner? How are you disciplining your life purposefully? The thoughtful pastor and author, Eugene Peterson, in his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, encourages us to look not for quick fixes or spiritual jolts, but rather for patterns of discipleship that will stand the test of time.

The first question for us then is what is the finish line? Paul says that he doesn’t run aimlessly. He had a specific aim in his spiritual life. We see in his letters that aim was the proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles, all the way to Rome and then Spain. Paul knew exactly where he was running. Do you?

What is your destination? What is the lasting impact you hope to have? The spiritual legacy you hope to leave your children, your friends, your church? Start by fixing the destination. For me, that looks like writing and revising a personal mission statement that then unfolds into specific statements of action.[ii] Begin with the significant truths of who you are in Christ and then narrow to those unique truths of how God has uniquely gifted and equipped you. Doing the work of shaping my mission statement has helped give me a way to evaluate whether my spiritual life is running aimlessly or running with a purpose. I encourage you to do the same.

Next week we’ll talk more about how spiritual disciplines fit into our mission.


Photo credit: Tikkho Maciel/Unsplash


[i] 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

[ii] There are several good resources that I would commend for detailing your mission statement. One that I found very helpful was Matt Perman’s book, What’s Best Next?

For more on the Purposeful Spiritual Life Series, see:

Part 1: A Purposeful Spiritual Life, part 1

Part 2: A Purposeful Spiritual Life, part 2

Part 3: A Purposeful Spiritual Life, part 3

Part 4: A Purposeful Spiritual Life, part 4

Part 5: A Purposeful Spiritual Life, part 5