Discipline as a word or concept isn’t currently in vogue. Yet, the richness of the practice and history of christian disciplines is quite astounding and inspiring. Spiritual disciplines are regular practices that promote spiritual growth. They include things like fasting, silence and solitude, Sabbath, worship, and submission.
What gets in our way of learning about or beginning spiritual disciplines? We often have a sense of not wanting to get caught up in religiosity. We fear that our hearts will harden towards grace and we would begin to try to earn our salvation. But what I’ve found to be true is that I enter into the grace of Jesus in the disciplines. I realize there is nothing I can do without him, most of all earn or gain freedom or salvation.
I enter into the grace of Jesus in the disciplines. I realize there is nothing I can do without him, most of all earn or gain freedom or salvation.
Sometimes it is the word, discipline, that gets in our way. Perhaps it would be better if we called them practices as this is a more common word describing the actions, habits, and repetition which are involved in the disciplines. I love the way Dallas Willard describes them:
“A discipline is any activity within our power that we engage in to enable us to do what we cannot do by direct effort.”
For example, a tennis player goes to the gym to lift some weights to work on certain muscles in her arms. She does this not so she can go out onto the court and lift weights. She does this practice, so that when she plays tennis on the court she is stronger, quicker, more agile, and has more stamina. She has used practices and discipline to make sure her body is an ally and not an enemy for her in pursuit of this sport.
I do not practice fasting so that I can show people how amazing I am at not eating. I practice fasting, in order to exercise the spiritual muscles that allow me to realize I am weak, needy, and deeply long for a God who is strong and will provide.
…if you ever feel as if you are fighting against yourself in your spiritual journey with Jesus, disciplines can help you position yourself for transformational encounters and growth with the Holy Spirit.
I do not practice silence so that people will miss my humorous anecdotes. I practice silence, in order to exercise the spiritual, mental, and emotional muscles that allow me to realize I do not need to defend myself; my heavenly Father is my public defender. I practice silence so I will hear the still small voice of the Lord more clearly, so I will recognize his voice among all the others in this world.
These are not exhaustive explanations. The way our mind, body, and spirits interact with the disciplines and how they position us or challenge us is different for each person, but if you ever feel as if you are fighting against yourself in your spiritual journey with Jesus, disciplines can help you position yourself for transformational encounters and growth with the Holy Spirit.
If you want to begin to adopt some spiritual disciplines for your life, I’d suggest reading the following books:
- Celebration of Disciplines by Richard Foster
- Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
- The Apprentice Series by James Bryan Smith
- Sacred Pathways by Gary L. Thomas
I encourage you to take the best and run. Learn from those who have gone before us. It is a rich and beautiful history of people who journeyed deeply towards Christ likeness.
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Michael and his wife Jess reside in Birmingham, United Kingdom. He currently coordinates the Hub Pioneering Leadership program, which is in 24 locations around the UK and is training 400 plus students in leadership skills. He also coordinates VI and Spiritual Direction within the Vineyard Churches of the United Kingdom and Ireland. He is a trained spiritual director and member of the Order of Sustainable Faith. His heart lies with wanting to help the local church be as healthy and intentional as possible. His other passions and hobbies are of the geek variety; astronomy, games of all sorts, history, and anything he hasn’t been able to try yet.