In 1836, Charles Simeon retired after fifty-four years of ministry at the Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge, UK. There he had been engaged in a ministry of expository preaching that had sent several generations of young Christian leaders out into British society. He had accomplished far more than 99.99% of ministers ever do. Yet a friend discovered that this elderly man was still rising at 4:00 a.m. every morning to light his own fire and to spend time reading the Bible, praying, repenting, and spending time with God. His friend thought this was over-kill. “Mr. Simeon,” he pleaded, “Do you not think that, now that you are retired, you might take things more easily?” “What?!” replied the old Charles Simeon, “Shall I not now run with all my might when the winning-post is in sight?”I am neither of advanced age nor a young man, but I know why Simeon could not imagine taking things “more easily.” It was because the praising, the hoping, and the resting becomes better and better if you are willing to give it daily attention for years and years. The one hundredth time through the Psalms or the Proverbs will yield astonishingly sweet, comforting, and convicting insights, because the more you know the Bible as a whole the more sense its particular parts make. And the more you know your own heart the more you know how to work on it, how to move past your discouragement, your peevishness, and your self-pity. But it takes years of relentless discipline. It is similar to how it takes years of practice to enjoy the power of playing the piano beautifully, but what we are talking about goes beyond even that in complexity and depth.When it comes to the spiritual disciplines, don’t be a sprinter. Be a long-distance runner.
–Tim Keller, from the article “Long Distance Spirituality” in this month’s Redeemer Report