Why Our Spiritual Walk Needs Repetition

This article was republished with permission from Lifeway Research.

I hate exercising. But I do it because—like eating vegetables, drinking water, and sleeping—it’s good for my health. So, the last time I was at the gym, I pulled up a worship music playlist and told myself just to make it through 4-5 songs on the elliptical machine. It seemed like a more attainable goal than setting a specific timeframe.

I was doing well until the last song. When it started, I was excited. I was almost done. Energized, I gave the elliptical my all. But then the song didn’t end. The worship leader kept singing the same phrases over and over again… for about eight minutes.

As it went on, I got increasingly annoyed. I was committed to staying on that elliptical until the song was over, but I was mad about it. In my aggravation, I began wondering why it was so necessary to repeat the same phrase over and over again.

As the song (finally) ended, I got off that machine, and my aggravation subsided. I started thinking about why we may find repetitive worship songs annoying. On a fairly regular basis, I see social media jokes about repetitive worship songs. It has, in some ways, become a trope we like to mock.

Repeated Phrases in Scripture

Repetition isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. If you haven’t noticed, Scripture is quite repetitive. In the Old Testament, the Israelites had to be told over and over again to turn back to God. The Psalms repeat phrases of worship and praise to the Lord (see 136 for a good example). Paul had to remind the recipients of his letters of the true gospel and its implications. In more than one place, the Bible tells us to love God, love our neighbor, not to worry or fear.

If Scripture frequently repeats itself, then maybe we should consider the value of repetition—not just in our worship songs but in all aspects of our life.

Why is repetition necessary?

In reality, anything worth doing requires repetition. As much as I wish I could, I can’t exercise just one time and be set for the rest of my life. The same is true for our spiritual life. Repetition is both beneficial and necessary for a mature Christian life. Though we’re saved, once and for all, by the gospel, we live in this already-but-not-yet state where sin still affects us daily.

Every day, we wake up and have a choice: we either give in to our flesh, or we walk by the Spirit. Repeated, daily immersion in the gospel is the prerequisite for walking in the Spirit. We’re forgetful people. We, like the Israelites and the New Testament churches, need repeated reminders of God’s supremacy, faithfulness, and grace.

The very existence of sin requires us to read, hear, and dwell in the same truth every day.

It’s why we practice spiritual disciplines—continually exercising habits like Scripture reading, memorization, prayer, and worship. We meditate on God’s word day and night (Psalm 1) so that we’re rooted in what’s true, not blown away like chaff.

Application for today

The last few weeks have revealed our need to be rooted in the truth—more than ever for many of us. While all of life has a shadow of uncertainty, I think a lot of us are feeling the weight of that uncertainty for the first time right now. The COVID-19 crisis has caused anxiety about more than just getting sick, it’s caused us to confront how uncertain the future is for our families, churches, finances, and so much more.

That’s why we need the truth on repeat. In a time that has revealed how feeble our functional saviors really are, we need to dwell in the unchangeable truth that no matter what happens, our eternity is set in a God who always keeps His promises.

This crisis is temporary. We can’t know how temporary it is, but we do know that it, like everything else in this world, will one day pass away. Christ will return and make all things new. That’s the hope of the gospel. That’s the hope we need on repeat, from now until we’re reunited with our Savior.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash