Celebration of Discipline

If you haven’t read Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline, I highly recommend that you give it a try. I rank this book in the top ten of the books that I have read in my lifetime.

I have heard Foster speak on two occasions and left with the strong impression that his practice of spiritual disciplines formed him into a Christ-like man.

Foster uses Hebrews 12.11 as a starting point to talk about spiritual disciplines.

Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12.11).

Discipline involves making ourselves do something that may not be pleasant in order to get something that is desired.

— A basketball player may not like running wind sprints, but they enjoy winning ball games.

— Someone may hate going to work on a Monday morning, but they like the paycheck on Friday afternoon.

— It may take an effort to put aside TV and social media to read the Bible, but the nourishment from the Bible can’t be substituted.

Discipline and Grace

Imagine an Indiana Jones movie scene. There is a swinging bridge over a deep ravine with hungry alligators at the bottom.

One way to our peril is to suppose that everything depends on us. Self-effort will send us to the bottom.

On the other hand, sitting in a bean bag while eating Cheetos and playing a video game, and saying, “God take care of me,” is another path to destruction.

Foster gives balance to these two extremes. Spiritual disciplines are things that we do, but they are not an end in themselves. The disciples put us in a place where God’s grace will transform us.

The Inward Disciplines

There are four spiritual disciplines that focus on our inside condition. They place us on the swinging bridge of the earlier illustration, so God’s grace can transform us.

Meditation – There are many ways that Christians can engage in this discipline.

The one that best suits me is to read short portions of the Bible and talk to the Lord about them.

Prayer – This discipline involves talking to God. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to pray and follow his guidance.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8.26).

Fasting – This discipline is certainly not pleasant but does open the door for God’s grace.

You may discover like I have that fasting reveals the extent of your self-centeredness.

Study – The purpose of study is not to acquire more information, but to place ourselves in a place where God’s grace can make us more like Jesus.

The Outward Disciplines

God is not limited to what happens in our personal space. God’s grace will meet us when we exercise discipline in the public sphere.

Simplicity – This discipline asks us, “How many pairs of shoes do I need?” “Do I have to have the latest and greatest cell phone on the market?”

The discipline of simplicity challenges the materialistic culture of our nation. We take steps with this discipline to put ourselves in a place where God’s grace can make us more like Jesus.

Solitude – Alone with God, without noise or distractions, is the essence of this discipline.

Pastor Jake Taylor at Maywood encourages many in this discipline. Many people have experienced God in new ways because they practiced solitude.

Submission – This discipline asks us if we can give up the need to be right all of the time.

What if we choose the longest line at the store? What if we take the slow lane in traffic?

What if we listen carefully to others without thinking of our response while they are talking?

Imagine how God’s grace will use these experiences to transform us.

The Corporate Disciplines

The Letter to the Hebrews recognizes our need for one another.

And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds,

Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10.24-25).

Here are two of the four suggested disciplines that Foster recommends.

Confession – Many of my friends practice something like confession when they do their AA fourth and fifth steps.

The fourth step is “a searching and fearless moral inventory” that should be practiced by all of us, not just addicts.

The fifth step involves confession. We “admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

AA has it right. Here is the goal of all confession. Step 12 begins with these words, “Having had a spiritual awakening. . .”

The goal of confession is to experience God’s grace and spiritual awakening.

Worship – Apparently, the neglect of worship had become a habit for the first readers of Hebrews.

When we worship together, we put ourselves in a place where we can provoke one another to love and good deeds.

For the sake of space, I have not included all of the spiritual disciplines that Foster writes about in his book. Foster acknowledges that there are more disciplines than the ones he discussed.

Let’s remember that spiritual disciplines are not an end in themselves. They are simply a way to put ourselves in a place where God’s grace can make us like Jesus.

YouTube Video

Rudy Ross and I talk about Hebrews on YouTube. You can see the video on the Bob Spradling channel.

Please email your prayer request to bsprad49@gmail.com. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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