11 December 2015

Disciplines: An Introduction

Note: This is part of my series on Discipleship and Disciplines. You might want to read from the beginning if you haven't already.

A vital part of pursuing a disciple's life is the practice of spiritual disciplines. No, I'm not talking about God the Father pulling out His cosmic paddle and taking you to the spiritual woodshed. I'm talking about intentional, costly efforts that are designed to help you grow in strength, control, or skill, with a view toward improving your spiritual walk. These practices will help you to find your path, remove distractions, and keep moving in the right direction.

Here are some other forms of discipline you might be more familiar with:

  • A child practicing an instrument
  • A mother of four working out with a personal trainer
  • Football players taking dance lessons
  • A toddler sitting in timeout or losing privileges
  • A college student taking a defensive driving course
Let's think about what these examples have in common:
  • They don't necessarily come naturally
  • They're not always pleasant
  • They're done in an effort to get better:
    • Become better-rounded, more mature, or more complete
    • Improve or broaden a skillset; become more useful
    • Grow in skill, strength, speed, flexibility, or patience
How are these examples different from one another?
  • Some are self-imposed; some are imposed by others
    • The goal of the discipline depends on who is imposing it
    • The structure (i.e., what it looks like) depends on the goal
    • Self-imposed discipline requires a level of personal commitment
  • Some are regularly scheduled; others occur on an as-needed basis
  • Sometimes the focus is on developing new abilities; sometimes it's on improving or expanding existing abilities
  • Each discipline has different costs and benefits, both to the one receiving it and the one administering it
Discipline is an act of faith, just as sowing a seed is. Though we cannot see the results yet, we trust that this momentary, costly activity will bring benefits greater than its cost. In other words, we think spiritual disciplines are a smart investment. We press on because of our firm hope that these things will come to pass (cf. Hebrews 11:1).

Spiritual disciplines are primarily self-imposed. In other words, we make a conscious decision to place ourselves under a particular discipline. We do this because we expect it to bring about a certain result in our lives.

In my next post, I'll discuss the scriptural basis for making spiritual disciplines a top priority in the life of every Christ-follower.

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