A good life requires a good rhythm—a pattern of movement regularly repeated over time. When we live life in tempo and experience the various harmonies around us, we find true joy and experience lasting contentment. It’s why we listen to music when we exercise and work—to give us a backbeat to our activities. It’s why we keep calendars—to live in harmony with the seasons. It’s why we schedule things—to get into a groove at home and work. It’s why newborns are so exhausting—they disrupt all our rhythms.But, when they (finally) get on a feeding and sleeping schedule, the dark circles under our eyes vanish and life seems to be restored.
Sadly, we often find ourselves out of sync and see others offbeat. We stop living in—or worse, never find—the rhythm God intends for us. We start, or continue, living according to our own desires that are always out of balance and never in sync with God. In fact, we can’t glorify God—the chief purpose of our life—without living in the rhythm of faith He ordained. He wired us this way. He designed it into our DNA. As Christians, our whole life, no matter when or in what context, consists of loving God and loving others—just like Jesus did. When we neglect the rhythm of the Christian life as God ordained it, we are vulnerable to sin, Satan, and the world.
Thankfully, the rhythm of the Christian life was not just some ideal lived in the past when we had real heroes. We still have such faithful believers in our day.
Recall John R. W. Stott, the author, evangelist, and church leader. Ranked among the one hundred most influential people in the world, according to Timemagazine in 2005, Stott exercised discipline over his schedule. He maintained a steady diet of undistracted time alone with God for over fifty years. After listening (via the Bible) and speaking (via prayer) to God, he returned to others with a more focused mind and heart—moved by God’s majesty, freed from earthly anxieties, and grateful for the privilege of being one of God’s children. The rhythm fueled Stott’s life, which manifested itself through his powerful and extensive ministry to millions around the world. He embraced the rhythm of the Christian life and lived it wholeheartedly—allowing his time alone with God and time together with others to work in tandem to glorify God.
Earlier this year, we saw the passing away of yet another highly successful person who lived according to the rhythm of the Christian life: Thomas L. Phillips (1924–2019), the longtime chairman and CEO of Raytheon. For all his accomplishments in the secular world, reaching what many would consider to be the pinnacle of business success, he considered his most significant achievements to be the things he did for the kingdom of God. For over forty years, he hosted a meeting once a month (deemed “First Tuesday”) with young Christian leaders in the Boston area to help them develop their leadership skills according to the Christian faith. He served on the boards of many Christian organizations. He led Charles “Chuck” Colson to Christ after the Watergate scandal under President Richard Nixon. Phillips lived a life worth living—one that alternated between time alone with God and time together with others. His life illustrates for us one of life’s vital rhythms: the back-and-forth need for fellowship with God and fellowship with the Christian community.
As young adults, we need to be reminded of such people and their examples. But, we also must realize that the rhythm of the Christian life expresses something that is universally important and true for every believer in Christ: the harmonious flow and strong connection between our time alone with God and time spent with one another. This divine tempo is timeless and transcends cultures. Although the pace of life might be different depending on where we live—perhaps a big city like New York, London, or Tokyo, where most people walk fast, overschedule, double-book, and multitask, or somewhere more secluded, like a small town in Alaska, a remote village in India, or a far-flung district in Peru—the underlying beat is the same and it is no less musical.
The rhythm of our life will lead to either blessing or disaster. Sin destroys our cadence and the cascading consequences of falling out of balance are catastrophic. But, Christ redeems the rhythm, and by God’s grace, we can still integrate it in our life as He intends. By holistically understanding the rhythm of the Christian life, we move from surface living into the depths of life—from splashing around in the shallows with our floaties on to going out twenty thousand leagues under the sea.
Brian J. Wright is the author of The Rhythm of the Christian Life: Recapturing the Joy of Life Together. He is also a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.) and Ridley College (Melbourne, Australia, Ph.D.). His pastoral and academic work have been featured on several Christian media networks, such as Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, and Power for Living. Brian serves full-time in pastoral ministry as a chaplain for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and also teaches for several universities and seminaries as an adjunct professor. He and his wife, Daniella, currently live in Florida with their four children.