Spiritual Formation and Devotional Intimacy - Lesson 9

Family Spirituality (Part 2)

In this lesson, it is discussed how marriage and parenting can be used by God as tools for spiritual growth and personal development. It is shown that by putting the needs of others first, as in caring for a spouse when they are sick or teaching and guiding children, individuals can learn to become more like Jesus Christ and grow in their faith. The speaker emphasizes that despite the challenges and mistakes that may come with these roles, they present opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.
Gary Thomas
Spiritual Formation and Devotional Intimacy
Lesson 9
Watching Now
Family Spirituality (Part 2)

I. Introduction

A. The role of marriage in personal and spiritual growth

B. Using the example of NFL player Chris Spillman

C. The concept of becoming a "God-centered spouse"

II. Parenting as a spiritual discipline

A. Emotional challenges of parenting

B. Lessons learned from personal experience as a parent

C. The importance of teaching children about faith

III. Conclusion

A. Summary of key points

B. Emphasis on the importance of marriage and parenting in personal and spiritual growth

C. Call to action for parents to use their authority to guide their children in their spiritual growth

  • This lesson focuses on the concept of spiritual formation, which is the process of growing in one's relationship with God and becoming more like Christ. You'll learn about the role of historical figures such as Perpetua and Francis of Assisi in spiritual formation, the importance of more than just belief in doctrine, the need to cooperate with God and surrender to his will, and the challenges and opportunities of spiritual formation.
  • This lesson discusses the distinction between static and dynamic holiness. You will learn about the importance of being available to God and the potential for transformation in one's relationship with him.
  • In this lesson, Gary Thomas discusses the societal pressure to conform to a certain physical standard and how this can lead to insecurity and self-doubt. He contrasts this societal view with the Christian view of the body, which holds a respect for the aging process, and acknowledges that our bodies have a purpose because they were created by God and that God incarnated himself in human form in Jesus Christ and how our bodies will also be raised on the last day.
  • This lesson focuses on the transformation of our physical bodies to become spiritually alive, and the idea that worship is not limited to singing and music, but encompasses all aspects of our lives. An example of Madame Galen Jean, a historical figure who lost her physical beauty but found spiritual depth and wrote books that inspired others, is used to illustrate the idea that surrendering oneself to God can lead to spiritual growth. The class also suggests that individuals can bring Jesus to others by approaching them with love and understanding, and by focusing on bringing Jesus to others rather than personal ambition and people pleasing.
  • The lesson highlights that God desires a personal and intimate relationship with each individual and that different people will have different ways of relating to him. It is emphasized that there is no one right way to connect with God, and that we should be open to exploring different ways that resonate with us personally. Throughout scripture, various forms of worship are celebrated and it's encouraged to find the way that works best for us.

  • The lesson discusses the idea that spiritual growth does not happen by accident and that it requires purposeful and intentional effort. The main focus is on humility and gentleness as two important qualities necessary for spiritual growth. The lesson cites Proverbs 3:34 and James 4:6 as biblical references to the idea that God opposes those who let pride reign in their lives, and that humility is not thinking less of oneself but thinking less about oneself and putting others first, and gentleness is the way of being like a mother caring for her children.
  • This lesson delves into the idea of spiritual formation, discussing three paths through which one can grow: practicing virtues, experiencing difficulty and suffering, and practicing spiritual disciplines. One of the virtues discussed is thankfulness, which is counterintuitive to the way the world thinks, and that maturity in faith is marked by being malleable in God's hands and surrendering our own desires. It is emphasized that when difficult times come in our lives, it is a opportunity to grow spiritually, but it can also be used as an opportunity by Satan to create bitterness and resentment in our souls. The lecture also provides several suggestions for books that can help deepen the understanding and practice of spiritual disciplines in one's life.
  • Marriage can be a powerful tool for spiritual growth and holiness as it can help reveal and work through one's sin and selfishness. However, we need to understand and accept that all people stumble in many ways, and that it's important to adopt God's agenda for our marriages rather than trying to impose our own expectations and desires on it. This way we can have a healthy and fulfilling marriage.
  • In this lesson, it is discussed how marriage and parenting can be used by God as tools for spiritual growth and personal development. It is shown that by putting the needs of others first, as in caring for a spouse when they are sick or teaching and guiding children, individuals can learn to become more like Jesus Christ and grow in their faith. The speaker emphasizes that despite the challenges and mistakes that may come with these roles, they present opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.
  • This lesson covers the historical development of Christian spirituality including the Desert Experience, various forms of prayer, Eastern Orthodox approach and challenges for Western-minded Christians.
  • The lesson covers historical movements in Christianity, including monasticism, Puritanism, and Pentecostal/Charismatic, and their emphasis on asceticism, scripture, and the Holy Spirit.

In this class, you will learn about the process of spiritual formation and the importance of developing a deep devotional intimacy with God. The lesson will explore the biblical foundations of spiritual growth, the role of the Holy Spirit, and the individual's personal responsibility in their own spiritual development. You will also delve into various spiritual disciplines and practices that help foster a closer relationship with God, such as prayer, meditation, Scripture reading, worship, and fellowship. Finally, you will examine common obstacles and challenges faced in the journey of spiritual growth and discover strategies to overcome them.


Dr. Gary Thomas
Spiritual Formation and Devotional Intimacy
Family Spirituality (Part 2)
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:11] The second thing, besides getting married for selfish reasons, how God wants to use marriage to teach. Well, let me use this example. It's a good one. It's American example because it's about a footballer. But I still think it's powerful. Chris Spillman was a linebacker. That's a defensive position in the NFL. He'd played he'd played football for 26 of his 33 years. He's one of those really big guys, very successful for different seasons. He was chosen as the best position in his league in the NFL. He was wealthy as a professional athlete, had a beautiful wife. Stephanie had been a model before they got married. They had two kids. But just before one training season opened, which in the states is in July, Stephanie Chris, his model wife, was diagnosed with breast cancer and then colleges was recommending a very aggressive treatment. They wanted to do a mastectomy, followed up by chemotherapy, and they sat Chris and Stephanie down and explained just what they would face. And as Chris listened to how his wife was about to be challenged about how his own life would be changed, he said and this is a quote, This was my test. This was my defining moment. Here's a man who wasn't going to find himself by being able to make it into the NFL or being able to make it into the Pro Bowl or even trying to play in the Super Bowl. He believed the defining moment of his life was when his wife got sick. Would he be there on her behalf? So he decided to shave off his head and empathy with his wife, who's about to lose all her hair to the chemotherapy. For some of us, that would be less of a sacrifice than others.

[00:01:53] But far more significantly, he called his team and said he was going to take the entire season off to stay home and care for his wife. Now, a lot of people don't realize the average career of an NFL linebacker somewhere between three and four years, it's not very long to take an entire season off is almost unheard of. But Chris explained why he said this. For ten years, our entire lives had been about me. My career came first, always. Stephanie made every sacrifice in the world to support me unconditionally. What kind of husband would I be if I didn't drop everything for Stephanie when she got sick? Did I want her sister to have to hold her hand while she suffered because I wasn't there? I want Stephanie's mother to have to sit with her in the hospital while they were shooting needles into her and filling up with those awful chemicals. Or did I want to be there myself? This is my family. This is my responsibility. This is my home. This is my duty. And what Chris teaches me is that I believe more and more now that in one sense, God designed marriage to pinch a man's feet. I got married for all kinds of selfish reasons because I'm thinking, here's a person that smells better than I do better relationally soft, and she sees everything I want to bring into my life. And yet God knew that very woman would also need times of service and care when I would have to put her first. Now, as a young husband, I would resent it when she would have legitimate claims on my time. Now I'm trying at least to recognize this is an incredible opportunity for spiritual growth, to see my selfishness confronted and to give me a place to learn how to serve so I can have more of a servant's heart.

[00:03:41] And guys, by guys, I mean men. Speaking of this, the more we learn to serve our wives, the more we become like, Jesus Christ. Who said the son of man came not to be served, but to serve? So instead of resenting our wives, we can say, Here is God's tool for me to become more like Jesus Christ. I'm just in awe of what God can do through a marriage. Another aspect of this for me really goes about how I view my marriage and how I go about viewing worship. And that's about becoming a God centered spouse, a God centered spouse. And here's what I mean by this. A spouse centered spouse treats their spouse based on how their spouse has treated them the past 24 to 48 hours. Those of you who are married know what I'm talking about here. Your spouse wakes up and they're short with you and you're not inclined to be kind to them or speak encouraging words or do any favor for them because you just you don't appreciate the way you're being treated. Or maybe they're just preoccupied and just not thoughtful. And you you kind of pull back as well to let them know that you don't appreciate being treated that way. Now, here's the danger of that approach. If the Bible says we all stumble in many ways and I respond to my wife stumbling with my own stumbling, and so she responds to that stumbling with stumbling of her own, and then I do accordingly. You can see how sin becomes this spiral that eventually destroys that once precious affection that we shared together. If I'm a spouse centered spouse and my spouse stumbles in many ways, my marriage isn't going to make it. But if I'm a God centered spouse now, I have an entirely new motivation.

[00:05:28] When does God deserve to be revered? Always. Is there ever a time when God doesn't deserve to be worshiped and honored? Of course not. So if I'm a God center spouse, where I treat my spouse based on how God has treated me. Her sin, my sin, it's all irrelevant. Now our marriages are bolstered by the grace and indeed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ that I'm to treat her out of reverence for a God who is always perfect, always deserving to be served. So when he says, I need to respond and love her as Christ loved the church, it doesn't say lover as Christ loved the church when she deserves it. It doesn't say lover is Christ loved the church when she's in good health. It doesn't say lovers. Christ love the church when she wakes up in a pleasant mood. And to do this based on how Christ has died for me. And so now Grace can sustain my marriage, even in the face of sins, assault. And here's what it really means to me to be married out of reverence for God. I remember a moment that changed my marriage forever when I felt like God challenging me in prayer, putting this thought in my mind. Lisa isn't just your wife. She's my daughter, and I expect you to treat her accordingly. And you know what? When I had kids, I got it. Because you want to get on my good side. All you have to do is be good to one of my kids. There was this young woman who sort of became the older sister that Alison never had. Alison's our oldest, and when Alison was in high school, she would or junior high, she would take her out for ice cream or to Starbucks.

[00:07:17] And I don't care what I hear about Amy for the rest of my life, and I can't imagine hearing anything negative. But if I did, it just go right off me. Because as far as I'm concerned, Amy is good people. Why? Because she was so good to one of my daughters. Conversely, you want to get on my bad side, Just be mean to one of my kids. Make them feel like they're afraid to go to school. Never give them a fair shake. My blood pressure will go up if I even hear your name mentioned. Because I'd rather you mess with me. Then you mess my kids. I see some parents smiling. You know exactly what I'm talking about when I realize that God feels about my wife, his daughter. Just as I feel about my daughters. Everything changed. Let me put it in another way. We spend much time as Christians meditating on the foundational Christian doctrine that God is our father. That's biblically true and appropriate. But the day we get married, in one sense, God becomes our father in law. And think of how that changes the way you look at your spouse. How does that change the way that you're married as somebody who stumbles in many ways? See, I know my son stumbles in many ways. I know he's not perfect. In fact, before he went to college, he's a sophomore in college now. Before we went off to university, I told him this summer if I said, but I could write out the three first fights you're going to have with your future wife. He didn't have a girlfriend at the time, but I said, I can tell you exactly the first three points that she's going to be frustrated with.

[00:08:51] And I laughed because when he got a girlfriend, that was one of their first disagreements was one of those points that I know him that well. I can tell you exactly what will most exacerbate my future sons in laws when my daughters choose someone to marry and accept their proposal. I know that. Which is why, if they would just let me pick, I think I could probably do a pretty good job for them, but I'm not sure they're going to go there. But I am praying for my son and my daughters. As I know you pray for yours. I'm praying that God will give my son a woman who will still love him and honor him and respect him, even though I know he stumbles in many ways because he'll always, in one sense, be my boy. And it scares me how desperately I want him to be loved. And I'm praying that God will send my daughters men who will still adore them and love them and make them feel safe. Even though I know one can wake up with an attitude, one can have that challenge, but they'll always be my little girls and I just really want them to be loved. I know they stumble in many ways, but as their father, I just wanted to be loved. And when I realized that that's exactly how God looks at my wife, it changed everything. One of the best ways I can worship God is to really spoil his daughter. And what really challenged me is how believing in the day of judgment could I ever look my Heavenly Father in law in the face, say, I'm sorry, God, but your daughter wasn't good enough for me? That wasn't a conversation I could imagine having with the guy who forgave me, who didn't give up on me.

[00:10:39] And so what does that mean? Woman I see you married a guy. He dreamed of these long, soulful discussions late into the night. And then six months after marriage, you realize you're married to a guy who wouldn't know an emotion if it bit him on the nose until he bled. And God might say, I know you wanted that. I know it's a disappointment, but he is my son. I can't tell you how happy I was on the day you agreed to love this man because oh, how I want him to be loved for guys. We married that woman again, primarily for selfish reasons, but God knew the day was going to come when we would see that she could wake up with an attitude or that breast cancer or Alzheimer's was in her future. And God said, Hey, I know this is disappointment. I know you didn't think you signed up for that. But you know what? Knowing that was ahead, do you have any idea the the joy you brought to my heart when you agreed to look after this daughter of mine? This is so real to me because my earthly father in law, my wife's father at this point is really sick. Not that long ago, doctors gave him two weeks to two months to live, to wind down, to spend Christmas with them, because we didn't know if we would have another Christmas with them. They're trying some experimental medicine. We don't know if it will work or not. And remember, the last things he said to me is Gary, It was just so nice because when you asked Lisa to marry you, I knew she was okay. I thought, that's the daughter I don't have to worry about. Okay. I look at that with my Heavenly Father in law, who loves my wife even more than her earthly father does.

[00:12:30] And when I think of how God has loved me, my marriage doesn't compete with my love for God. It's not separate from my spirituality. It's a big focus of it. I'm just speaking now as a father myself. Some woman could make me one of the happiest men on earth. Not by doing anything for me now, but giving me a father in law card, not by ever praising me. She'll just love my son. Really? Well, I'm going to have so much joy in seeing that, and I realize I have a chance to do that to my Heavenly Father in law through marriage. So for me, we talk about Christian spirituality. Marriage is one of the primary ways that I believe I can worship God as well as having my selfishness confronted. I want to get of this is kind of funny. I got to say this and then I'm going into parenting even I'm not giving it much time. There was this pastor down in Texas who had this young woman in his church that he had high hopes for. She was just a strong, godly young woman. And she got romantically involved with this guy that the pastor didn't think was good for her and he thought he's no good. It's not going to go well. He tried to warn her away from the marriage. He says, No, I think it'll be good for me. He says, I think he's nothing but trouble. Please don't marry him. She said, I'm going to marry him. She married him. The pastor just waited for everything to fall apart. Right? Well, it happens to three years in the past are shocked to realize that this young man was treating his wife better than any other husband in his church, some of whom have been married for decades.

[00:14:11] And he and he couldn't figure it out. At first he thought it's just infatuation. Couple of years any second. This is past that stage. What's going on? So he calls a young man into his office and he's very honest with the young man, says, I want to be with you. I recommend that your wife not marry you. I didn't think you were good enough for her. I didn't think you would be a good husband. And now you treat her better than any other husband treats his wife and my church. I just want to know why. So I can teach the other one. And the young man just kind of laughed and said, You know who our father is? So I know he's a mexican businessman. He goes, He's not a businessman. He's a drug lord. And on the day we got married, he pulled me aside and said, If you ever hurt my little girl, I will kill you. And it'll take a long time to do it. The young man sat back and said, Pastor, I believe him. No, we don't have a drug lord. We're not motivated by star terror, but hopefully we are motivated by reverence in order for a God who has loved us, for giving us shown us such kindness and mercy. With that father in law, we're called to love his daughter. You women, his son out of honor, out of reverence for him. Well, let's look at child rearing, how God uses that in the spiritual discipline process. There's a pastor who gave a sermon on anger, asked people to come forward for prayer, to have a hold on their anger. 19 people came forward and the pastor laughed as he looked at these 19 people, not out of cruelty, but when he realized every single person that came up was a mother of toddlers and he realized there are some stations in life to be a mom who's home with toddlers, where anger becomes a universal temptation.

[00:16:15] And I don't have a lot of time to get into this. But I think those of you who are parents have experienced it, that that parenting draws emotions out of you that you've never felt before. You felt fear like you've never felt before. If you become a parent, you'll never be completely free from fear. You can hope it doesn't direct you. It'll always be a temptation. You will get more angry than you ever thought you could get because the emotions are so great and because you care so deeply. For me, I look back now because my youngest is a senior in high school and the active parenting years, so I'm still trying to actively parent as much as I can. It changes when they're out of your home. There are a million things I wish I would have done differently. There are a million things I wish I would have done that I didn't do. There are many things I wish I wouldn't have done that I did. I just repeat myself, Whatever the vice versa of that is. That's what I wish. I'm sorry. It's a. And yeah, I think coming out of it as I look on it now, as I'm just processing this going into the empty nest. I'm thinking, I remember saying this to some buddies a few years ago. I said, I wish I could start parenting now. I said, I feel like I'm more settled in who I am. I think I have more wisdom. I have more experience. If I could start parenting now, I might not mess up so much. You know, I might. And when I went in to prayer about that, I felt God challenged me saying, Gary, how do you think you got to be who you are? Do you think you would be the man you are without having failed in parenting, without having your fear, challenge your anger, challenge your passivity challenged? And I realized, though I have failed in so many ways of parenting.

[00:18:09] When I look at my kids all loving the Lord, all serving Lord incredibly far more responsible than I ever was at their age. And then I see that the God is use that experience and even my failures to give me, I think, a better opportunity of what it means to be a man, to be a leader, to be a teacher, that is use a process of parenting. And so we're just a couple of minutes. My plea about this whole aspect of parenting is that because parenting gives us authority, because parenting calls us to teach our kids the truths of the gospel, to change their manners, to give them a motivation to succeed in life and to be diligent in their studies. We can forget that God is also working on us, the parents, while we're trying to raise our kids. In fact, if I were to give you an exercise, if I was doing a full, sacred parenting seminar, I would ask you, I want each of you to think of a kid that that really kind of gets under your skin in one particular area. If there's one thing you could fix in one kid, what would it be? Just think about that for a second. And then instead of just praying that God would change that about your kid, maybe you could pray, Lord, how do I need to grow to address this in my kid's life? Because I found it. Let's say you got unusually, unusually favorable treatment with your spouse. With your spouse, you get to pick the problems you're bringing into your life, right? You're choosing whether you're marrying an introvert or extrovert. You're choosing what issues they face with kids. They come ready made with their own problems. Right.

[00:19:49] And and if your marriage is too easy, God has this way of giving you a kid that knows exactly what buttons to push to show you, maybe not quite as holy as you thought you were. And our focus then is always going to be, how do I get this kid to change so they don't annoy me so that I can. I'm proud of them. And I want to say, you know what? Maybe God gave you this kid to give you a strength to address a weakness. Maybe God gave you this kid so that you can learn how to love an impulsive person. Maybe God gave you this kid so that you can learn how to handle and love someone who tries to use their anger to control others. Maybe God gave you this kid to teach you patience or to teach you to be strong. Or maybe God gave you this really forceful kid that will run over you if you don't become stronger as a person. Learn to stand out. Set boundaries have consequences, and God just wants you to become stronger with that. And if we give ourselves to parenting in this way, at the end of the process, we will never have parenthood or kids perfectly, But we'll be better people for it. I really think marriage and parenting present the most brilliant design that God could give for us to grow spiritually. And if you doubt it, just think of this. What do you think will challenge your character more? Going away for a weekend solitary prayer and fasting retreat, or getting in a minivan and driving from Vancouver to Calgary with your children and your spouse in the back? You know, I think the giggles tell us what we're facing.

[00:21:30] And all I want to say is those trials are going to come. We can use them for spiritual benefit or we can just let them slip by. I think rather than, you know, without denigrating the strong tradition of celibacy in the Christian life, there's value in that. It's also recognizing that marriage and family life also provide their own modes of spiritual growth. Let's embrace them as a part of spirituality, not as something that compromises it, but actually something that can focus it and accentuate it. Let's let's pray.

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