In an outback camp in Australia, or in many homes in India, where there is little running water and no shower if you want to clean yourself you need to take a bucket bath. You fill a bucket with water (my preference is with warm to hot water) and you take a smaller bucket and you dip the smaller bucket into the bigger bucket and pour the water over your head. Your body gets wet, you soap it up, rub all over, and then repeat the pouring of water over your body to wash it all off. Right there is an image of how we can make progress in our walk with Jesus.
In 1 Timothy 4 Paul gives instruction to Timothy on what it will take for him to be a good minister. At the end of the list of things to do Paul finishes with the encouragement to “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” (1 Timothy 4:15, ESV) If we are going to see progress in our Christian walk we are going to need to practice and immerse ourselves so that the change can take place. You wouldn’t try having a bucket bath with a thimble – you would never get wet enough to start applying the soap. The progress with a thimble would take far too long for us to even bother. And yet, many times we dabble with spiritual disciplines and never really get wet enough to make a change. For a spiritual breakthrough more may be required.
The idea of practising and immersing may not require a long time but it needs to be an intense time. The reason we get wet in a bucket bath is because we pour enough water on ourselves to get fully wet. The same thing applies spiritually. Perhaps an intense time, a short intense time, may be required for a spiritual breakthrough. Having chosen an area you want to change in an all out effort may bring more change in a short period of time than dabbling over a very long period. You might see more progress from an hour a day for a month than dabbling and hoping for change over a year.
The starting point is knowing what you want to change and why you want to change. Having worked that out you now need to sort out which disciplines will help you make that change possible. Perhaps a long slow process will be required but perhaps a shorter, more intense time will work better.
In 2015 we can end the year the same or more like Jesus. While a lot of change will be out of control we can intentionally seek to make progress. Pray it through, talk it through with others, and conduct an experiment and see what kind of progress you could make.
What change would you like to see by the end of 2015? Which approach do you think will work best to bring about the progress you are after?