Spiritual disciplines are habits, practices, and experiences that are designed to develop, grow, and strengthen certain qualities of the spirit — to build the “muscles” of one’s character and expand the breadth of one’s inner life. They structure the “workouts” which train the soul. Some spiritual disciplines are personal, inward exercises that are practiced alone; others require interpersonal relationships and are practiced in community.
Donald S. Whitney writes: “Although God will grant Christlikeness to us when Jesus returns, until then He intends for us to grow toward it. We aren’t merely to wait for holiness; we’re to pursue it.”
That is the focus of our series, “PURSUIT”. We are pursuing relationship with Jesus by developing rhythms that shape our hearts and the pattern of our behaviors. Not just our hearts…our souls. These rhythms unite our heads and our hearts, growing our love for God and our neighbors, just as we were created to be.
Paying all our spiritual attention to the message of Jesus, while ignoring his practices creates a divide where our practical lives are separated from our actual faith. There is a better way. It is the way of Jesus.
When we take ownership of the faith we profess, we take the step of pursuing God with everything we have, rather than sitting on the fence, relying on the understanding of others. The first step is choosing to make faith in Jesus your own.
One particularly compelling purpose for practicing the spiritual disciplines, that nearly all might agree on, is this: learning how to properly “order our loves.” If you say God is the thing you love most in life, but you spend two hours each day on social media, and five minutes reading your Bible, it’s possible you love Instagram more than God. If you say you love your family more than your job, but you keep saying yes to unnecessary overtime hours at work, you really love work more than your family. If you say you love the ideal of friendship, but you snub a nerdy acquaintance to look cooler in front of your buddies, you really love popularity more than friendship. Your loves are out of order.
“But living a just and holy life requires one to be capable of an objective and impartial evaluation of things: to love things, that is to say, in the right order, so that you do not love what is not to be loved, or fail to love what is to be loved, or have a greater love for what should be loved less, or an equal love for things that should be loved less or more, or a lesser or greater love for things that should be loved equally.” Saint Augustine
The purpose of training the soul, of practicing spiritual rhythms, is to align them correctly.
For the soul to strengthen, it has to be trained in a consistent, deliberate way. Just like your physical muscles, it needs something to push against, it needs resistance. If you really want your spirit to be able to soar to adventurous heights and explore the profoundest of depths, if you really want it to possess power — if you really want it to be free — it paradoxically needs some structure. It needs discipline.
You’re likely no stranger to discipline in at least one, and probably several areas of your life. You discipline yourself to graduate from college. You discipline yourself to make it on a sports team. You discipline yourself to learn to play an instrument, or to speak a foreign language. You discipline yourself to go to the gym every day. You discipline yourself to get ahead at work. You know that in order to master a course of study, lose weight, and get to where you want to be in life, you’re going to have to put forth effort. You’re going to have to dedicate time to the pursuit. You’re going to have to sacrifice.
You may never have thought much about disciplining yourself spiritually, however. But the same immutable laws that underlie all other pursuits in life, underlie the growth and development of your soul…and as such, growing your relationship with Jesus.
The decision to train the soul must be intentionally chosen, and then consistently practiced. Persistence is essential.
Just like you (hopefully) carve out time each day to exercise your body, you must make spiritual rhythms a nearly unalterable part of your schedule. Just like a single workout at the start of the month won’t sustain your strength for the rest of it, you must exercise your soul on a regular basis.
So let’s get started…
(1) Find someone, a friend, family member, or maybe someone at church you don’t know very well. Ask them to keep you accountable during the next 8 weeks as we learn about and practice different spiritual rhythms.
(2) Download the Harvest Christian Church APP from the Google Play Store or the Apple APP Store. Read the Daily Scripture and Devotionals (Mondays-Fridays) written by the staff at Harvest designed to help you discover more about the different spiritual rhythms.
(3) Watch for weekly video devotions on Facebook and blog posts with ideas and special content!
(4) Each week we will be posting a list of resources (books, blogs, podcasts, and APPS) compiled by the staff to help you take YOUR next step in discovering your spiritual rhythms.
(5) SHARE with a friend what you are learning.
Content edited from An Introduction to the Spiritual Disciplines, by Brett and Kate McKay
Resources for Digging Deeper
A Man’s Guide to the Spiritual Disciplines, By: Patrick Morley
Celebration of Discipline, By: Richard Foster
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It’s Impossible to Be Spiritually Mature, While Remaining Emotionally Immature, By: Peter Scazzero
Rhythms of Grace: Discovering God’s Tempo for Your Life, By: Kerri Weems
Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, By: Ruth Haley Barton
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, By: Donald S. Whitney
The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction, By: Justin Early
The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’s Essential Teachings on Discipleship, By: Dallas Willard
You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, By: James K.A. Smith
Series: Practicing the Way (www.practicingtheway.org)
Letting His Light Shine: 8 Spiritual Disciplines, A Series to Transform Your Life and Grow Closer to God
An Introduction to the Spiritual Disciplines https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/introduction-spiritual-disciplines/