In Praise of Spiritual Disciplines

In Praise of Spiritual Disciplines

by Nicholas Kersten, Director of Education & History

You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You.

Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back.

Kindle and seize us. Be our fire and our sweetness.

Let us love. Let us run.

— Augustine of Hippo

in Confessions

The Christian life is measured by cycles of struggle and growth. Each of us experiences (and should expect to experience) periods of struggle which cause us to grow deeper in our relationship with Christ, just as storms and drought cause plants to sink deeper roots into the ground. But how do we facilitate this growth, and how do we prepare for the times of testing?

The answer, for followers of Jesus Christ for most of the history of the Church, has been through the practice of spiritual disciplines. Put simply, spiritual disciplines are activities that followers of Christ undertake repeatedly, with perseverance and intent, which God uses to grow their relationship with Him. Over the course of years, faithfully seeking the Lord through the disciplines helps us to be formed spiritually and made strong so that we have the resources we need to endure difficulties, testing, and grief.

There is something less than full agreement on which activities are proper spiritual disciplines, but most of the lists include the following disciplines:

Solitude (and Silence), which is taking time alone in the

quiet with the LORD, actively removing distractions so that

we can focus all of our attention on Him.

Fasting, which is foregoing of physical food as an act of

dependence on God for sustenance.

Simplicity (or Frugality), which is the act of learning to

live with less so that you can be more generous with the

resources God has given you, and be thankful even with

less “stuff.”

Chastity, which is the foregoing of sexual thought or contact

to seek greater intimacy with God.

Sacrifice, which is service to others, often in secret, done

beyond what would be normal, to the point where it costs

us something real, again as an act of dependence on God.

Study, which is immersion of the self in the Word of God

so that we can store it in our hearts until it affects changes

in our thoughts and behaviors.

Worship, which is the cultivation of an attitude of aware-

ness of God’s greatness, which leads to heartfelt response

from us with our entire being.

Prayer, which is the act of being in the presence of God as

we are, without pretense, seeking His guidance as we lay

ourselves bare before Him.

Fellowship, which is our participation in harmony and

support with the other members of Christ’s body.

Confession, which is the marriage of prayer and fellowship

as we lay ourselves bare before God and others in an effort

to make clear our trust in the Gospel for forgiveness and

restoration

Accountability (or Submission), which is our humble

response to our awareness that we cannot live the lives

God has called us to on our own without the support of the

body of Christ, as we willingly submit to the guidance and

correction of others.

These disciplines, when employed under the guidance and leading of the Holy Spirit, can aid us in following after Jesus Christ and store up spiritual resources which can support us when we encounter obstacles. If you are regularly struggling in your walk, it is worth prayerfully considering if engaging in one or more of these disciplines would benefit you and the cause of Christ.

It is the goal of the Christian Education Council to aid you in your efforts in these areas. Though we do not have available resources in each of these areas, we do encourage you to talk to your local church pastor or contact us so that we can encourage you and help you find your way to helpful resources. At present, we are encouraging everyone to engage in our Scripture Memory Program, as it provides a means of achieving the discipline of study as we hide God’s Word in our hearts. Please contact us if you have questions or need resources!

May God aid us as we all find our way back, repeatedly and regularly, to Him.

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