Discipline. For most of us that is the one word we don’t like. Discipline often implies one of two things. Either it refers to being corrected for something we’ve done wrong or it refers to training or improving ourselves in some way. Both of these experiences are often painful and not fun. Most of us are adults and therefore are not being corrected for our actions on a regular basis. But the other type of discipline still is very much a part of our lives. Each of us have daily routines. We need to be disciplined to get up on time, arrive at work on time, take care of our children, pay our bills on time. The list could go on and on. These are all things that we know we have to do.
Hating It Even When You Know It’s Good For You
While we sometimes hate discipline, in the end we know that it is good for us. Without it, we would be unruly, irresponsible, and directionless. So discipline is important. The same can and must be said for our spiritual lives. We need discipline. As Christians, we are continually growing and developing in our faith. We are often like children who learn how to ride their bike using training wheels or children (and adults) who bowl with bumpers. We need help to grow. Throughout history, the church has developed “spiritual disciplines.” In the classic, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney defines spiritual disciplines as “those personal and corporate disciplines that promote spiritual growth. They are habits of devotion and experiential Christianity that have been practiced by the people of God since biblical times.”1
The Why & the What of Spiritual Disciplines
Whitney’s definition helps us answer to vitally important questions: the why and the what. Why do we need spiritual disciplines? If you and I are completely honest with ourselves, without discipline we would not grow spiritually. Therefore we need disciplines and habits that help us cultivate spiritual growth. Our hearts’ desire should be to look more like Jesus each and every day and that simply does not happen on its own. Secondly, what are the spiritual disciplines? If the spiritual disciplines are to help us grow spiritually, what are they? There are countless spiritual disciplines that people throughout history have practiced. Some are more well known than others. For instance, if you have been a Christian for any length of time, you’ve heard about the importance of reading your Bible and praying. But there are others that are less popular, like fasting, stewardship, and resting.
Over the next several weeks we are going to take a journey together to discover the spiritual disciplines. In the coming weeks we are going to look at these spiritual disciplines: reading/studying/memorizing Scripture, prayer, meditation and worship, fasting, stewardship, service, and evangelism.
My prayer for each of us is that we would learn more about the spiritual disciplines and begin practicing them. As we do, I pray that each of us would grow spiritually, looking more and more like Jesus with each passing day.
1Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1991), 17.