When we take time to reflect on spirituality we become aware of the truth that spirituality is something that endures. It is not like the wind or the weather that changes from season to season, but it is something that provides a solid foundation for human existence. Spirituality cannot exist in a vacuum; it can rest only on a rocky foundation that cannot be destroyed by the elements of the world. Spirituality is the anchor that keeps the ship of life moored so that it will not drift away into the deep sea.
Perhaps the best analogy to describe the strength of spirituality is the illustration that Jesus used at the conclusion of His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7:24-27). Jesus spoke of two builders – the wise and the foolish. They built on two different foundations – the rock and the sand. When tested by the rain and the winds, the sandy foundation was washed away and the house collapsed. On the other hand, the house that was built on the rocky foundation stood the test. The house did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock. (Matt. 7:25)
The basic truth that we can learn from the above analogy is that any spirituality that is not built upon the right foundation will crumble down when the winds and rain ‘beat against the house. Taking this as a warning against building superstructures of spirituality on false and shaky foundations, we need to ensure that we build our lives on the truths and principles of God’s eternal Word. (Matt. 7:24; Ps.119:89). All the other foundations are ‘sinking sand’ as one hymn writer puts it.
For spiritual like to be strong and stable we need to have several spiritual components. The following are but a few examples of what makes our life strong and steadfast in the Lord.
The word communion has different shades of meaning, but in the present context, it refers to the believer’s relationship and interactions with his Creator and Redeemer God. Communion is the oxygen that sustains our spiritual life. It is the experience of our inner being entering into a deeper fellowship and intimacy with God. It is this experience that St. Augustine described when said: ‘For you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you’. Nothing the world offers can satisfy the deepest yearning of the human heart to enter into a meaningful relationship with God. That need was expressed by the psalmist this way: ‘As the deer pants for the streams of water, so my soul pants for God, for the living God. (Ps. 42:1,2)
The beauty of Christian life is that we can maintain communion with God, not intermittently, but constantly. It is an experience that is sustained by our walk with God. This intimacy with God is expressed so beautifully in the OT about men like Enoch, Noah, and Abraham who walked with God. The NT equivalent of this walk and communion with God is found in our Saviour’s words: ‘Abide in me, and I in you’. (Jn. 15:4) NIV renders it as ‘Remain in me and I will remain in you’. Is it to be emphasized that this life of communion or abiding can be experienced only through prayer and by letting God’s word abiding in our hearts. (Jn. 15:10, Col. 3:16)
Commitment is another stabilizing factor of spirituality. Commitment is an act of binding ourselves to the Lord with a promise –‘I will serve you because I love you. It is the response of the human hearts – touched by the grace of God – to love, obey and serve the Master for the rest of their lives. It is that magnetic pull of our self towards the ‘Lover of their soul’ which prompts us to say as Polycarp did before his martyrdom: ‘how can I deny my Master who has done me no harm?
While it is true that commitment is a solidifying factor of spirituality, it is also true that many Christians are experiencing conflicts of interests and divided loyalties. Consequently, they lose their focus and end up getting sidetracked from the goal. The remedy for this spiritual malady is to resist the temptation to serve ‘two masters’ (Matt. 6:24). It is about this type of commitment that Moses exhorted the Israelites: ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your strength’ (Deut.6:4,5; Matt.22:37). When we reach that level of commitment, all other things will fall in place and the task we do for the Lord will become a sweet aroma to Him.
Character is yet another rocky foundation of Spirituality. Of the several definitions of character, there is one that stands out and that says: ‘moral strength’. Character, in the context of spirituality, can be expressed as the outworking of the two preceding factors – communion and commitment. It may be called the fruit of spirituality. Spirituality is often expressed in terms of externals that others observe in a person’s life. Sometimes it is equated with reputation, which is often misleading. Reputation is what others think you are, but the character is what you really are. That real self will shine through proper behavior.
Spirituality is not a matter of the heart alone. It has to be reflected in our daily and practical lives. The word that the NT uses is ‘walk’ (KJV). The new translations use the word ‘live’. How we ought to live or walk is amply illustrated in the Bible. (Rom.8:14)
All these are summed up in one simple statement: ‘whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (I Jn.2:6) This is the highest goal of Christian character. This kind of life not only reflects the beauty and holiness of Christ, but it also offers us an effective way of attracting people to Christ our Saviour. Blasé Pascal once said, ‘The serene beauty of a holy life is the most powerful influence in the world next to the power of God’.
The world in which we live today is immersed in materialism. Its influence is affecting the lives of Christians too. We as Christians are called upon to swim against the undercurrents of materialism and fake spirituality. The three ingredients discussed here will provide us with a strong foundation to stand on. When all else will fail and vanish, true spirituality will remain and provide strength to the believers to stand firm like the Rock of Gibraltar.