Thermodynamics is a field of study which addresses the phenomena and the laws of heat. One of its most esoteric concepts describes the tendency of all things in the universe to run down, cool off, and become increasingly more disorganized. Things never get hotter or more organized unless energy is brought from somewhere else. Physicists describe this phenomenon with the term “entropy.” Entropy increases as things get worse and decreases when the right kind of energy is added.
So…if we own a car and leave it alone, without any maintenance, the tires will go flat, the fenders will rust and the paint will flake off. To restore the car to a useable state, we must put energy into its restoration. In other words, a car will never get better by itself.
It’s the same with a life. Have you ever gone to a fitness center in January and discovered that you can’t find a parking space? Everyone is trying to fulfill their New Year’s Resolution to get in better shape. However…on March 15th…you can park anywhere you want! This is the second law of thermodynamics at work. Our enthusiasm for our fitness program cools off. Life only gets better if we apply energy and heat.
[tweetable]It’s also true in the realm of faith. Two missionaries were discussing this at Kennedy International Airport in New York. The older missionary was coming back to the United States after 30 years on the mission field, and a newly ordained missionary was headed out for his first assignment. The young missionary asked, “Do you have any advice for me?” The veteran missionary replied, “Remember that fire has a tendency to go out. No matter how hot the flame of one’s faith is, it will go out if it is not tended.” People can’t live on stale grace. They can’t live off of the faith they had ten or twenty years ago. The old missionary was challenging the new one to teach people to keep rekindling their faith because…fire has a tendency to go out!
This is why the Apostle Paul said to young Timothy, “Rekindle the flame of faith that is within you through the laying on of hands.” Paul knew that Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice had raised him in a Christian family. He knew that the fire of Timothy’s faith was hot! However, he also knew the tendency of faith to go out. Therefore, he charged Timothy to keep adding additional logs on the fire of his faith so that he would continue to grow as a disciple of Jesus.
How can we tend and rekindle the fire of our faith in 2017? How do we add logs on the fire? As I have the privilege of walking alongside people and helping them nurture their faith…there are 7 spiritual practices I constantly recommend. I recommend these for all of us to consider applying to our lives:
- Prayer – Set aside 10 minutes a day to pray for the needs of the world, and the people of our lives.
- Regular systematic bible study – read through the New Testament. Take a book at a time and read a few verses each day. Read the introductions to each book in Eugene Peterson’s The Message.
- Regular worship – find a worshipping community that nourishes our soul and go there consistently.
- Participate in a Christian community – find a small group of Christians with whom you can be “real” and who offers a “safe space “to share your heart and soul and who will pray with and for you.
- Read books by authors who inspire and challenge us, like CS Lewis, Barbara Brown Taylor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Howard Thurman, Dallas Willard, Bryan Stevenson and N.T. Wright, among others.
- Generosity – Give a percentage of your income to the work of God’s Kingdom. Ask God to help you increase that percentage toward and beyond the 10% tithe. (Now, I’ve stopped preaching and started meddling!)
- Availability – Pray each morning that you would be available to be used by God as an instrument of grace to someone that day. Pay attention to whom God may be bringing your way!
If you add these 7 disciplines to your life, you will be internalizing God within you… and your faith will burn brightly… to the glory of God. Like a 91-year-old woman named Gladys whose pastor took her to a worship service in a care facility where she lived. Gladys told her pastor that she was almost totally blind and she couldn’t read the hymns or the scriptures anymore…and she was losing her memory. But, as the scripture was read, Gladys recited it from memory…and she also prayed the Lord’s Prayer by heart. But what amazed her pastor the most was that she knew all of the verses to all the hymns. When her pastor said, “Gladys, I thought that you said you were losing your memory?” Gladys replied, “I guess I didn’t keep those words in my memory…I kept them in my heart!”
If we will practice these 7 spiritual disciplines…we will be rekindling the flame of our faith…and we will thwart the second law of thermodynamics!