What good is discipline? (Spirit of the Disciplines 9 & 10)

Willard turns his attention to what the specific disciplines can do for spiritual transformation. Specific actions are needed to ensure real and lasting change for Christ and His kingdom. And even though I disagree with an approach that starts on the outside and hopes the inside will change as well, I agree that we need to changes habits of the heart and body in order to achieve real and lasting change.
He introduces us to disciplines of abstinence and engagement. Abstinence is abstaining from certain desires in order to achieve a greater desire. Because our greatest goal is to surrender to Christ and His kingdom, we are willing to set aside other desires like sex, convenience, comfort, material security, fame and notice. Disciplines of engagement allow us to grow strong in areas of the heart that need strengthening.
A discipline like silence will free us to listen to others and pay attention to what they have to say. Instead of worrying what we will say next, we can purposely prepare our hearts to converse with others by understanding and respecting what they say. If we desire to transform our relationships, the discipline of silence helps us.
A discipline like frugality frees us from our desire to acquire all that appeals to us. It reminds us to remain focused on the goal of seeking the kingdom of God and not a kingdom of stuff. It helps us to refuse a life of debt and bondage to material goods.
A discipline like secrecy frees us from trying to let the world know what great people we are because of all the great things we do. As Willard says, “Secrecy rightly practiced enables us to place our public relations department entirely in the hands of God…” When we practice our deeds in private, we live for an audience of one instead of anyone and everyone around us. Because our great desire is to please God, we refuse to put our actions on display for others to applaud us and fill us with pride.
Disciplines like Bible study and prayer provide us the proper perspective on all things as we meditate on the Word and pray through all things. These disciplines free us from misunderstandings and misdirections that might come if we neglected a God-centered perspective. A renewed mindset gives us the needed focus and attention to live life from the inside out.
Willard concludes chapter 9 with a great insight into the use of spiritual disciplines. He says they ought to be used based on where we stand in a given area of our Christianity. He says the “extension of the disciplines is largely determined by our own established tendencies to sin that must be resisted, as well as possible avenues of loving service to God and humankind…”
Place where we are weak and place we need to grow provide a definite place for the disciplines.


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