The Joy of Spiritual Discipline
Modern American culture, and increasingly within the walls of Evangelical Churches, finds a wide chasm between “discipline” and “joy.” Spiritual discipline often brings to mind such exercises as reading the Bible in one yearand (to a less comfortable extent) tithing.
In this blog I will briefly discuss the origins, purpose, necessity and benefits of spiritual discipline.
We can begin in Genesis, chapter four, where Cain and Abel offer their sacrifices to God and tithing has its origins. While we can see Abel’s gift as pleasing to God, the fruit of his gift does not appear evident when Cain kills his brother. Perhaps the joy in the discipline of giving with a pure heart was that Abel was the first to enjoy being absent from the body and present with the Lord (2Cor. 5:8).
Throughout the Bible God calls His people to acts of spiritual discipline. Abraham was challenged with sacrificing his own son (Gen. 22), Moses led the people of God through the Exodus, David exercised tremendous spiritual discipline throughout his life, and we find Jesus fasting and praying in the desert (Luke, 4). Additionally every true follower of Christ from the Apostles through today was faced with spiritual challenges.
One of the more useful disciplines in studying Scripture is contemplation. If we are to be enlightened by Him, we must stay focused on the God of the Bible. We know from Jesus experience in the wilderness (Luke, chapter 4) that Satan is present to twist the Gospel and suggest a false version of it to satisfy our desires. In contemplation, we must still be wearing the “full armor of God” (Eph.6:13-17).
Spiritual disciplines are a means of preparing us to be like Christ in daily life. They serve to bring us to an awareness of the Holy Spirit keenly working in us and interceding for us. They help us to die to ourselves and live for Christ. We have only touched on the Spiritual disciplines and have not acknowledged the great contributions of the Desert Fathers, including Antony of Egypt, St. Patrick, St. Columba, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, the Waldensians, the Cistercians, and a host of others who pioneered spiritual discipline in its various forms.
A person in love receives great joy in the discipline of knowing the one who touches his heart. We have a great Lover of our souls, and we do well to strive to know Him intimately.