The spiritual life is often spoken of with little understanding of precisely what is meant by it. In many circles, its use remains vague and may have various applications. A person may be admired for civic devotion yet be said as lacking any evidence of spiritual depth. A coach may be ineffective but spoken of having a spiritual impact upon the team. A church may be involved in many ministries of outreach in the community but have a reputation for having little spiritually among the membership. Is it surprising that there exists a lack of clarity of what is meant by the spiritual life?
An answer to this perplexing question may be located by a careful look at any number of persons in the Old and New Testament. For the sake of this brief discussion, let us limit our attention to the Apostle Paul. From a careful examination of what the Bible tells us about Paul, I suggest that the spiritual life is marked by two irreducible qualities. First, consecration. Paul took his gift for deep thought and ability to communicate complex ideas simply and with clarity and dedicated it to the cause of God. Paul’s intellectual capacity was not in itself spiritual. History is replete with women and men of enormous intellectual gifts who did not believe in God. Paul’s intellectual gifts became spiritual when devoted to the divine purpose of God’s work in the world. The spiritual life, then, may be said as that life that is given a new direction or given to the new purpose of serving God.
The second irreducible quality of the spiritual life is inspiration. Paul was aware of the Divine Presence. There was something more about Paul than his own natural talent and gifts. This “more” was the indwelling and active God. Paul spoke of this “more” often and in various ways particularly when he spoke of the evidence of God’s strength in his own weakness. When a person presents their life to the purposes of God, what we earlier identified as “consecration”, the Holy Spirit is released and works God’s work through them. Consecration and inspiration are the individual-directed and God-directed aspects of the spiritual life.