Drew Glosson, deacon over technology in Karis Church, challenges us to persevere in pursuing spiritual disciplines. Drew and his wife, Megumi, are proud parents of Takumi. They hope to soon be working with church planters in Japan.
In the foreword to Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, J.I. Packer charged us to “prepare for the workout.” A workout however, is only beneficial through perseverance. So, also, is the pursuit of godliness.
As we have walked through the disciplines of Bible Intake, Prayer, Worship, Evangelism, Fasting, Serving, Stewardship, Silence and Solitude, Journaling, and Learning in Whitney’s book, it’s easy to get caught somewhere between being encouraged and discouraged. You may be encouraged because you are already practicing some of these disciplines or you're beginning/renewing your commitment to practice the spiritual disciplines. You may also feel discouraged or overwhelmed by such a long list of disciplines, thinking there’s no way you could possibly practice all of these.
In this closing chapter, Whitney points out three roles given to us so we can persevere in the practice of the spiritual disciplines: the role of Holy Spirit, the role of Fellowship, and the role of Struggle in the Christian Life.
The Holy Spirit
You might be surprised to learn the pursuit of godliness through the practice of the spiritual disciplines can not be accomplished without the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. Sure, you may be able to practice all the disciplines and do them well. Whitney is quick to point out, however, that without the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives we won’t grow one inch in the godliness department. Godliness can be obtained by no other means than God himself. Any work on our part, even through means of the disciplines, is foolishness. Therefore, in order to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness,” one must first become a believer.
The work of Jesus Christ on the cross and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that comes with belief provide us with all we need to be godly. The intricate working of the Holy Spirit’s role in our pursuit of godliness is a divine mystery. Although we have all we need to be godly, we are still responsible to discipline ourselves.
Think of it as if you are the heir to a throne. You'll be king one day, but if you don’t start learning how to be a king now, when the time comes to inherit the throne, you'll make a terrible king.
Striving to become a disciplined person is a challenge that leaves many feeling defeated. Yet, some encouragement can be found in knowing the practice of the spiritual disciplines is not always meant to be done alone. There is great benefit to communing alone with God as we've seen throughout the book, but there is also great benefit to disciplining ourselves together. The Bible is full of examples of people learning and practicing the disciplines with one another. As we've been going through the books of Acts, we have seen how the Church practiced these disciplines together, as they heard the word together, prayed together, worshiped together, served the city together, and fasted together. Disciplining ourselves in community is a great source of encouragement and strength.
In Karis Church, we have practiced some of the disciplines together recently as well. If you’ve been a part of Karis for a while, you’ll recall some of the recent times of fasting and prayer that we did corporately to seek God’s direction for the future of Karis. God graciously answered our prayers during those seasons and has remained faithful to us in this new year. So, what about your Missional Communities (MCs) and fight clubs? Have you been faithful in your groups to practice the spiritual disciplines?
The best way we can be on mission is to strive to become disciplined people. The elements of mission are made up of the disciplines. Friends, if we want to be successful MCs, if we want to go deeper together in our fight clubs, let strive to discipline ourselves together.
Sticking with a good workout plan is often an arduous task. Things may go well for a time, but then the holidays come. The excuses begin with Thanksgiving and carry over to Christmas. Then, New Years rolls around and you make a resolution to get back into your workout routine, but time keeps eroding away and the next thing you know you've gained back weight and feel sluggish again. Sound familiar?
We do this with our spiritual lives as well. We have a great season of communion with the Lord, studying His word intensely, spending long bouts of time in prayer and meditation. We write wonderfully long journal entries and meditate deeply. We fast, we worship, we even gain a zeal for evangelism. And then, life happens and, as the days and weeks fly by, so does our practice of the disciplines. Jesus himself was not without struggle. He was perhaps the busiest person to ever walk the earth, and yet he was also the most disciplined. As tired and exhausted as he was, he made a point to withdraw from the crowds and discipline himself for the purpose of godliness.
The apostles were also incredibly busy men. We see, in Acts, how they spent their days - traveling, running from the law, preaching, teaching, healing, training, and yet they also had to learn to discipline themselves. The apostles had the same Holy Spirit that we have. They had the same fellowship that we have, and they struggled in more difficult ways than we often do.
Friends, let’s commit to the discipline of our spiritual lives together, knowing that we have all we need in the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. Let's encourage one another and practice the disciplines together as we continue to struggle on through the rough times ahead. Let’s struggle together to discipline ourselves so that we can win the race Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 9:24.
Let’s ready ourselves for the workout.
If you missed any posts in the Abide series, you can find them all here.