Why is Spirituality Important?

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Question Marks
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.

No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6 ESV)

Why is Spirituality Important?

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Some questions defy pat answers: Who is God? Who am I? What must I do? How do I know?

African Runners

At one point in world competition among marathon runners, Ethiopians ruled. The Kenyans had talent, but Ethiopians trained harder and trained better. Training at high altitudes built their strength; training as a team built their competitiveness.

Africans were not always allowed to compete in these games. The right to compete did not come all at once, but it started with efforts to abolish slavery. William Wilberforce, a devout Christian, spent most of his life leading the effort to abolish slavery in nineteenth century Great Britain. He later wrote about the need for spiritual training saying:

no one expects to attain the height of learning, or arts, or power, or wealth, or military glory, without vigorous resolution, and strenuous diligence, and steady perseverance. Yet we expect to be Christians without labor, study, or inquiry. (Wilberforce 2006, 5–6)

Spiritual Journey

Wilberforce must have had me in mind. For years, I professed Christ as savior but did not embrace him as Lord. My faith was incomplete. As I learned to apply the lordship of Christ to my life, I experienced a more sustained sense of Christian joy.

The content of faith is critical. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1) If I have faith that eggshells are white, I have only defined eggshell color. But, if I have faith that Christ rose from the dead, my whole world changes—God exists and death no longer has the final word. The call to faith defines our identity in Christ.[1]

Postmodern Dilemma

The idea of Christian faith has become unfashionable. The postmodern world we live in is often like the Sahara desert where mountains of sand blow about daily. Direction in a world of shifting sand requires a surveyor’s marker that establishes location. Standing on a marker, a map shows both direction and distance. Without the marker, however, a map becomes a puzzle—like words without definitions—whose pieces have meaning only relative to one another. Scripture is our map; our marker is Jesus Christ[2].

The sun does not always shine; neither does it rain every day. Spirituality is living out what we know to be true on good days and bad.


[1] “Through the CALL of Jesus men become individuals. Whilly-nilly, they are compelled to decide, and that decision can only be made by themselves.” (Bonhoeffer 1995, 94).

[2] Benner (2002, 26) sees the role of a spiritual director as of pointing to God’s work in a person’s life.


Benner, David G. 2203. Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship & Direction. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. 1995. The Cost of Discipleship (Orig. pub. 1937). New York: Simon and Schuster.

Wilberforce, William. 2006. A Practical View of Christianity (Orig. pub. 1797). Ed. Kevin Charles Belmonte. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Christian Classics; Hendrickson Publishers.

Also see:

Christian Spirituality

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