Soul Training – Jonathan Worley

I recently read the book, “The Good and Beautiful God,” by James Bryan Smith. A couple of chapters in this book, in particular, stood out to me. One of those chapters is titled, “God Transforms.” This statement is one that any true, God-loving christian would latch onto. In this chapter, Smith writes about a man that struggles with the relationship of being a sinner and yet being sanctified by Christ. He speaks heavily of grace and forgiveness to release the chains and bondage of attempting to be holy.

Everybody likes this message. Am I right?

The thing is, Bryan follows it up with another chapter called “Solitude,” which suggests that solitude is related to “God Transforms.” The thing I really like about this book is that Bryan writes on a truth and then follows it up with an action or discipline in the next chapter.

I think the concept of understanding doctrine and misunderstanding what to do with it is common in the typical Christian’s life. A lot of times we can be taught a truth, but fail to understand how to get it from our head to our hands. Bryan formatted his book to combat this problem by saying “God Transforms,” but then requires you to do something.

This begs the question, “Is God transforming me or am I?”

The answer is yes. Scripture is clear that we are to “be transformed.” Romans 12:2 shows an interesting relationship between human action and God’s transforming power. On one hand, we all want to believe in a formula for transformation, which states that if I ask God enough times or ask with enough passion it will happen for me.

And on the other hand, God calls us to action beyond a prayer. I believe that the very essence of the gospels is action.

I read the solitude chapter with skepticism. I thought, “What in the world does solitude have to do with God’s transforming power?” To tell you the truth, I didn’t find that out until I did some purposeful application. In his book, Bryan suggests being in solitude for one to two hours a day, and based on the rest of the book I took that to mean no social media, no TV, and no books. I thought this was unreasonable, but as I kept reading I realized it wasn’t an all or nothing practice.

I started small with sitting in the shower for 15 minutes every morning with the purpose of allowing God to do His thing. I tried not to think about anything and clear my mind the best I could by listening to myself breathe or focusing on the sound of the running water.

This was difficult. I think starting small is the key. The discipline grew naturally without me forcing it. The 15 minutes turned into 30, and 30 minutes turned into 45. Before I knew it, my hot water heater was running out of hot water. My time with God evolved from the shower to the Bible, and from the Bible to journaling, which led to me understanding life a little bit differently. Who knew 15 purposed minutes would change the way I operate!

Although learning to clear my mind was helpful, my big discovery shed some light on something different. Let’s be honest, being silent is not a complex or revolutionary thing. My big discovery showed me the relationship between what God does and what I do.

To clarify, transformation took place somewhere between what I did and what God is doing. God, in His infinite wisdom, allowed me to participate in my own transformation process, and I think this is what He wants for all Christians.