I took piano lessons from the time I was in 1st grade through 12th grade. I used to be quite good and was the accompanist for choir and other high school music groups, playing for school musicals, for Vacation Bible School and church events, for graduation, and even once at a fashion show. I wasn't really naturally talented at the piano, but I was good because I practiced like crazy. It took time - lots and lots of time.
I rarely play now and I'm not very good anymore. A couple years ago I pulled out a technique book and struggled through it. When I got to the back of the technique book I noticed my piano teacher had signed I had completed it way back when I was in 7th grade. It made me realize how much I have forgotten. How out-of-practice I am. How I had regressed and I was stuck in the same place I was at in 7th grade!
Today I was playing a few songs and I was thinking how taking piano lessons and practicing the piano is sort of like a spiritual journey. If you don't put in the time, you don't get anywhere. You don't change. You stay at the same level of proficiency. It's not that you aren't a piano player - you are. But you don't become a better piano player unless you spend time playing the piano. Without a teacher you don't notice your flaws in technique. But with constant lessons and practice, you develop.
Reading God's Word - I've been reading the Bible for years. It is a typical day's habit. When I'm being fed on God's Word the best way to describe it is I am on an even keel. I keep things in perspective. I feel connected to God. I have better discernment of what His will is for my life.
Years ago I began attending weekly Bible study where we spend time reading and talking about God's Word. We would break for Christmas and for the summer and back then if I wasn't in a study, I wasn't reading God's Word on my own. What I noticed was at those times I would begin to struggle spiritually and emotionally. I'd feel distant from God. I've always dealt with the being-blue-for-no-reason kind of depression and when I'm not reading God's Word, it comes on. I can count on it. I need His Word to keep me nourished and moving forward. Now the times my Bible study group isn't meeting, I purposely will read a book of the Bible or do a Bible study on my own. Making Bible reading a habit has drastically changed my outlook on life. God speaks to me through His Word and it strengthens me.
Going to Church - I can sit home and do my own Bible reading thing, but there would be a lot lacking in my spiritual progress. First of all I would miss out on corporate worship. Worshipping God with others does something wonderful for your soul. I would miss out on the teaching of the minister which often stretches my mind. Sometimes the minister's words convict me, sometimes they clarify something for me or teach me something new, and sometimes I grasp a concept I never would have realized on my own. And I would miss out on Christian fellowship and awesome serving experiences. Being with other believers on a regular basis is essential to spiritual growth.
Prayer - We can read about God and hear about God, but it is through prayer that we really experience God. Our prayers to God are our communication life-line with Him. Prayer should be time spent with the One we love and worship and trust. Early on in my spiritual journey a lot of my questions about Christianity had to do with prayer. And so I did a long topical study on it to figure out what I believe about prayer. Does God really hear our prayers? He does. Does He really answer them? He does. Do our prayers really matter in the scheme of what is going to happen? They do. It is through prayer that God changes our biblical head knowledge into biblical heart knowledge. Through prayer to Almighty God, we experience Him in a very real personal way. In a close relational way as Someone we can confide in and trust. But that intimacy comes with time. Prayer draws us close to Him.
To be a really good piano player you have to have a teacher who can guide you along and point out where you can be better. You must be purposeful and willing to put in the time.
And so it is with our spiritual life. Christians will stay stuck in the same place unless they spend quality time with their Teacher letting Him guide and instruct them and learning more about Him.
If we aren't purposeful in our spiritual journeys - learning what God says in His Word; spending time with other Christians in worship, service and learning; and in one-on-one time with our Lord; we are going to hit a lot of wrong notes in the composition of our life.
But if we do put in the time and listen to our Teacher, our life will be the most beautiful piece giving glory to God!