When a counselee graduates from the discipleship counseling process, I encourage him to continue in the spiritual disciplines and patterns he has developed in the counseling process. Sometimes it is easy to forget the things that most help us walk with God, so I have put together a brief list of essentials for the spiritual life for my counselees. This is their “last” homework assignment — though it is something they will spend their lifetimes completing, which is why I call this “Homework for a Lifetime of Spiritual Growth.” I want them to be aware that these are some of the essentials that will help them walk in consistent obedience to and fellowship with Christ.
These are principles that will be helpful for both the biblical counselor and the counselee he has discipled. These practices are not intended as legalistic rituals, but as heart stimulators to help the believer do some of the essential practices that will guide him to satisfaction with Christ.
The principle is simple: read the Bible every day. Every day. Use a plan, if needed. Be consistent in the intake of Scripture. To use your time in Scripture profitably, follow these six practices:
- Read with the intent of knowing God and His mind, not “solving problems.”
- Establish a time and place that you will meet God every day — e.g., on the brown chair at 6:00 am
- Keep a Bible, pad, and pen (and maybe a devotional book) at that location.
- Read the Bible systematically and with balance (history, poetry, prophets, gospels, epistles).
- For every two minutes you read, meditate for one minute.
- Keep a log of what passage you read, including the following —
- What is the main idea/central truth?
- What does this passage reveal about God?
- What is one key verse that you can think about today?
- Pray the passage.
- Commit to do (at least) one thing that day that will reinforce what you learned.
Practice the regular discipline of Bible memorization, which will help you meditate on Scripture throughout each day:
- Memorize something you are reading/studying in Scripture.
- Or, follow a Bible memory plan: Fighter Verses (also available as an app), The MacArthur Scripture Memory System, Susan Heck, “A Call to Scripture Memory,” or Scripture Typer (app).
Pray daily. Most of us will be helped by maintaining prayer lists that we pray through systematically (a notebook is helpful to keep from the distractions cell phone apps, but Prayer Mate is a helpful app). I have found John Piper’s implications about how to pray helpful. However you structure your prayers, just make sure you are praying regularly as an expression of your dependence on God (1 Thess. 5:16-18; Mt. 6:9-15).
We need the input of other godly leaders and teachers to instruct us in the truth. Two mechanisms are particularly accessible and helpful:
- Listen to other good sermons during the week to renew your mind. Some I have found helpful are: Grace Bible Church, Grace to You (John MacArthur), and Desiring God (John Piper). Ask me if you need more particular suggestions.
- Regularly read other good biblical books: read books on spiritual life (Jerry Bridges, John MacArthur, John Piper), marriage and family (Stuart Scott, Martha Peace, Paul Tripp, John Piper, P&R Publishers), Christian biographies, and theology (John MacArthur, puritans like Thomas Watson). We have many excellent resources in our church bookstore including a “book of the month.”
Participate in worship at your church, regularly and weekly. You need the fellowship of other believers to remind you that you are not alone in your spiritual battles, and corporate worship is a matter of obedience (Heb. 10:23-25).
- Take notes on the sermons and ask, “What is in this for me this week?”
- Find a small group or ministry to connect more deeply with the church.
- Join the church as an act of commitment to the church.
- Engage in some formal ministry and service in the church (ask one of the pastors or elders how you can help, and then follow through on doing what they ask, even if you consider it to be “menial”) — cultivate a mindset of humble servanthood (Mk. 10:45).
Regularly (and consciously) do acts of love and service for others, both in formal ministry and informal relationships. Treat others as more important than yourselves by following the example of Christ (Jn. 13:12-17). If you are struggling to find outlets of service, create and then regularly expand a list of ways that you can serve particular people in your circle of influence (I suggest starting with at least 25 items).
Regularly (weekly at least) do things for your spouse that demonstrate that your spouse is your highest earthly priority. Create and maintain a list of “ways I can love my wife/husband.”
Terry Enns is the pastor of Grace Bible Church in Granbury Texas. He has over twenty years of pastoral counseling experience, and is a certified counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC, formerly NANC). In addition to his preaching and pastoral duties at Grace, Terry maintains an active blog at Words of Grace.