Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spirituality or Practicality?

Which one should we be—spiritual or practical? Are both of them at odds, or in harmony? Just my title should tip you off, as to why I’m writing this article. Most people separate the two, categorizing themselves as either spiritual or practical. In other words, they pit the spiritual against the practical, and make it sound like life is about either one of these, either the spiritual or the practical. “Spiritual” people are often found berating “practical” people, and practical people are often found making fun of “spiritual” people.  I cringe when I hear a person say, “I’m a pragmatist! So don’t give me that spiritual stuff.” Or “I’m a really practical person, so can you please show me some evidence?” We are spiritual beings who live in a world of flesh and blood, steel and concrete, hair and skin, roads and airways. So how do we navigate this perceived difference between the practical and the spiritual? The answer lies in the perception.

The problem lies in the fact that we perceive some things to be spiritual, and others to be practical, so that we see no relationship between the two. This is a wrong perception of reality. Things are always both spiritual, and physical at the same time, even though we don’t always perceive them to be. The great Jewish and Roman philosopher, and Apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul, said of this earthly and physical existence that we find ourselves in,  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) Though addressing Christians primarily when he says “our struggle . . . ,” he was speaking of the struggle of all physical people who inhabit the world. The struggle as we live in a physical world is not primarily a practical struggle, but a spiritual struggle, which has practical manifestations. So the problem lies in the fact that we perceive these two realities to be separate. What’s the solution then?   

The solution, and the success that follows it, lies in being both spiritually practical and practically spiritual.  Yes. The two go hand in hand. It is not spirituality or practicality, but spirituality and practicality. How did Paul respond to the problem he presented as “our struggle”? He says, Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:13) In response to our struggle in this physical, fleshly world, the solution he says, is to take up spiritual armor— the armor of God. He then describes this spiritual armor. It begins with truth, because in this struggle, if we want hope, if we want victory, it can only be found in the truth. There is hope, only in the truth. Next in the spiritual armor follows righteousness, then the good news of peace, then faith which vanquishes the doubt of the Enemy. When these are in place, people know they are guaranteed deliverance or salvation. The spiritual armor then has the word of God­—the whole Bible, which we use to guide our practical moves and decisions. And lastly, that piece of the armor that draws on all of the preceding pieces of armor is prayer—the mightiest agent of practical change, that which controls the practical outcome of things because of the channel it gives us into the spiritual reality of things.

And so when we are faced with everyday situations and the problems of life, our resolve should not be to first find a “practical” solution to them. It should be to practice our spirituality in every circumstance and problem. I’m not saying we should be people who don’t do anything about the situations we find ourselves, or that we should be impractical, and unrealistic. No. What I am in fact saying is that our practical outcome should be rooted in spiritual practices. The practical should be an overflow of the spiritual. Everything we do and don’t do, should be a result of our spiritual lives and practices. There are umpteen examples in the Bible that tell us that the spiritual should precede the practical, and that what we do in the flesh should be guided by our connection to God, in the spiritual. A poignant example of this, is Proverbs 3:5-6,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

We are to trust in God, not our own practical understanding of things. When we commit things to His hands, and acknowledge Him, He who is Spirit, orders the events and circumstances of life, helping us, guiding us, bringing us success for His glory.

When the spiritual realm and the practical realm find this kind of alignment, there is not a person on earth who will disagree that there is a greater degree of victory over the perceived disappointments in life, and that though life is not a bed of roses, we know for certain that our course in life is being directed by God Himself, and with Him there is no chance of things going wrong. Make the practical of your life marry the spiritual of your life, and see what great things God through His Son, Jesus Christ, does for you.

© Kenny Damara, 2014

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