Do you consider yourself a disciplined person? You know what I mean: you control your eating habits, do your exercises, organize your life, both at home and at work. That kind of stuff. Now ask the same question about your spirituality. Do you have the discipline to read your Bible consistently, pray consistently, witness consistently, and all the other activities we’re supposed to do?
Our book of the month will challenge you in a lot of ways. It’s called Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, written by Donald Whitney. If you were to do some research on spiritual disciplines, you would find quite a variety of activities that are included. Whitney has identified ten that he includes in his book.
In the first chapter, Whitney lays out the reason for doing these disciplines: it is for the purpose of godliness, based on 1 Timothy 4:7 (“Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness”). The rest of the book then spells out how that can be done. It is not legalistic duties, but rather the means to becoming more like Christ. As he states, “…Godliness is the goal of the Disciplines, and when we remember this, the Spiritual Disciplines become a delight instead of drudgery.” Later he says, “God has given us the Spiritual Disciplines as a means of receiving His grace and growing in Godliness. By them we place ourselves before God for Him to work in us.” Exactly!
Whitney clearly states that the two most important disciplines for Christians are Bible intake and prayer. That sounds obvious. He takes two chapters to describe the practice of Bible intake, which would include hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on Scripture. He includes some great ideas on how to effectively do each of these, as well as establishing a biblical basis for doing each one. These two chapters are a must-read on a regular basis or you will find yourself slipping away, slowly but surely.
The next chapter handles the discipline of prayer. Whitney is not as thorough as he was with Bible intake, but it is challenging as he lays out the Biblical expectation that God’s people will be people of prayer. I found particularly helpful the section where he integrates Bible intake with prayer: praying God’s Word. Is there a better way than that to pray according to God’s will? I don’t think so.
The next few chapters cover the important disciplines of worship, evangelism, and serving. Again, there is not as much detail, but what he does say in those chapters will challenge you to go find other resources to get started on each of them. I like particularly what he says about evangelism (my weak link!): Whenever we share the gospel (which includes the summons to repent and believe), we have succeeded. In the truest sense, “all biblical evangelism is successful evangelism, regardless of the results.”
Time and space do not allow for comments about the other disciplines that Whitney views as needed. Here are those that he includes: stewardship, fasting (everyone’s favorite!), silence and solitude, journaling (recording spiritual insights), and learning (reading mostly, but there are some other good ideas as well). Again, with each of these there are other resources that will help you with the details, but this book will definitely encourage you to start and give you something with which to begin.
You will find this book to be extremely helpful and challenging as you work at putting your Christian life into order. I first read this book about three years ago and have pulled it off my shelf many times to go back over some of the ideas that Whitney teaches. He also has a valuable website (www.biblicalspirituality.org) that has many great resources for going further in the area of spiritual disciplines. It will be worth your time and effort to go there. But you’ll want to include this book in your library, so get over to our book cart and take one home. Then discipline yourself to put it into practice.