January is a time for thinking about New Year Resolutions, even though we can struggle to keep them very long! However, this month is a good time to re-set our spiritual disciplines. These practices, which engage our whole person, help our spiritual growth as disciples of Christ.
If we want more of Jesus’ presence in our lives, we often find ourselves thinking, ‘I’ll have to try harder: to pray, listen to God or read the Bible’. Paul makes the important distinction between training and trying in the Christian life:
‘Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever’. (1 Corinthians 9:24,25).
Paul insists that runners undergo strict training if they are to win the race. It would be foolish to enter a marathon without adequate training. The runner wouldn’t complete the course despite trying hard! The same principles apply to the Christian life: God wants us to train by developing spiritual practices: ‘to train means to arrange my life around activities I can do that will enable me, over time, to do what I cannot do by direct effort alone’ (Dallas Willard).
In his book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster lists the following spiritual disciplines:
Inward Disciplines: Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, Study
Outward Disciplines: Simplicity, Solitude, Submission, Service
Corporate Disciplines: Confession, Worship, Guidance, Celebration
Over the coming year we will be looking at some of these. Effective discipline is not drudgery, but delightful! Richard Foster insists that we can ‘celebrate’ these disciplines which can help us grow.