Spiritual Disciplines

God wants to dance with us!  He wants to be intimately involved in every area of of lives, and he wants to grow us in godliness and in our relationship with him. Spiritual growth is a harmonious relationship orchestrated by God and us. The spiritual growth process is accomplished by God, but we have our own responsibilities in the process. We are to completely depend upon him and exercise discipline.[1]

While dependence on God is our primary focus, God has given us the means by which we are to exercise discipline “for purpose of godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7 NASB).  Since biblical times, God’s means for spiritual growth has been through the classic spiritual disciplines consisting of solitude, silence, simplicity, study, prayer, service, and fasting.[2] Donald Whitney writes, “ God has given us the Spiritual Disciplines as a means of receiving His grace and growing in Godliness. By them we place ourselves before Him to work in us.”[3] Thus, through the spiritual disciplines, we are presenting ourselves before God, exercising our devotion to him while believing that by his grace, he will move in our lives in powerful and in transformative ways.  

God has ordained the spiritual disciplines, and Christians throughout history have walked the “path of disciplined grace,”[4] recognizing that spiritual growth is not optional and there is are no spectators in the arena of personal sanctification. God has commanded that his people be holy as he is holy (1 Pet 1:15-16), and the Apostle Paul instructed his reader with the metaphor of training like an athlete in order to illustrate how Christians should train in the spiritual life (1 Cor 9:24-27). Furthermore, Christians have looked to Christ’s practice of and commitment to the spiritual disciplines as an example to model their lives after. The focus of spiritual growth is to become more Christ-like, so in order to become more like him, we must follow him in the exercise of spiritual disciplines.  Dallas Willard explains in his book the Spirit of the Disciplines,

The secret of the easy yoke, then, is to learn from Christ how to live our total lives, how to invest all our time and our energies of mind and body as he did.  We must learn how to follow his preparations, the disciplines for life in God’s rule that enabled him to receive his Father’s constant and effective support while doing his will.  We have to discover how to enter into his disciplines from where we stand today⎼and no doubt, how to extend and amplify them to suit our needy cases.[5]

[1] Kenneth Boa. Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2001), Google Play edition, 76-77.

[2] Several writers have developed comprehensive lists of the spiritual disciplines, but for the purpose of this discussion, I have listed a short list of the classic spiritual disciplines.

[3] Donald Whitney. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 18.

[4] Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (San Francisco, CA.: Harper Collins, 2002), EPUB edition, ch.1, “The Spiritual Disciplines Open the Door.”

[5] Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (San Francisco, CA.: Harper Collins, 1991), 9.