Words: Spiritual Disciplines (Part 3)
This concludes the three part examination on Spiritual Disciplines as practices every Christian should do in order to grow closer in his relationship to Jesus Christ. They are exercises designed to orient a believer to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. They, by themselves, do not cause a person to become more spiritual. They, by themselves, do not cause God to be obligated to the believer with favor. They, by themselves, do not propel the believer to spiritual maturity. The disciplines can be functions that an unbeliever can perform and therefore, by themselves, do not produce any merit before God. They would not be categorized by the word “spiritual” in that case. However, practicing spiritual disciplines can help the believer focus on the Word of God, so that in the power of the Holy Spirit, the believer is set apart by faith in mind, speech and action to become more godly. Spiritual disciplines can increase a believer’s pursuit of or commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the previous articles, the Spiritual Disciplines of Bible Reading, Bible Study, Scripture Meditation, Scripture Memorization and Prayer were first examined. Secondly, the Spiritual Disciplines of Worship, Fellowship, Service, Frugality and Fasting were discussed.
These first ten spiritual disciplines are fairly easy to understand, but the last five become more difficult to understand and practice. If Christians don’t see or understand tangible increases of knowledge, it’s easy for Christians to get discouraged with practical Spiritual Disciplines as bearing much fruit. However, just the opposite is true. It’s like spending time with a friend. Usually spending more time increases the love between two friends and the same is true with these last five.
Solitude: This is spending time alone with God to know and understand Him, while avoiding contacts other people. It is withdrawing from the world to seek the Lord alone. This is completed by silence and is very difficult to practice, because it is hard to measure. How do you know how well you’ve done, or if you’ve done enough, or if you want to do it again? There is nothing material to measure. But there is something to measure and that is the joy (settled assurance that God is in control) of a growing relationship with the Lord and knowing that when you encounter Jesus, you can’t help but enjoy His presence. Solitude is critical for those in ministry, because the ministry drain is so difficult to measure and it creeps up on servants of the Lord, like Elijah (1 Kings 19). Solitude is one of the best ways to refresh the spirit and restore freshness for ministry. Solitude can make you feel naked or like you are in a vacuum, yet that is when God may expose true things about you and His mercy will tenderly lead you through any valley and onto a mountain top of fresh air (Ps. 23:2-4). Solitude often helps God become more real than other spiritual disciplines. Jesus went to a solitary place to be alone with God the Father in prayer (Mark 1:35).
Silence: This is refraining from speaking or even singing to quiet your mind and soul in God’s presence. Silence includes both not speaking and singing, but also shutting down outside noises in order to concentrate (Ps. 46:10). This spiritual discipline goes along with solitude, but can be practiced at other times like when having fellowship listening to a friend in need. Often in silence, sorrow can rise up, because of the Holy Spirit’s convicting work (Ps. 39:2). Silence is certainly what happens to a Christian who is enjoying the awesome presence of the Lord (Mark 4:39). Silence is sadly a lost commodity, because of all the white noise of television, radio, cell phones and electronic games. Silence helps a Christian go deeper in seeking after the infinity of God. Silence is the best way to listen to the “still silent [small] voice” of God (1 Kings 19:12) speaking through Scripture to understand conviction and God’s purposes.
Submission: This is the action of humility before the awesome sovereign presence of God (1 Pet. 5:6). It is practiced in not asserting self before the authority, power and wisdom of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:19-21). It is visibly seen in submission to a person as you would unto Jesus Christ, like a wife to a husband or employee to an employer. It is coming under the authority of one as a visible manifestation of submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a form of abstinence, because it denies self the power and privileges it would want to express or enjoy. Jesus submitted to the Father’s will from His opening mission statement (Luke 4:17-19). Paul recorded that Jesus humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on the cross (Phil. 2:7-8). Jesus acknowledged that He did nothing on His own, but only what He saw the Father doing (John 5:30; 6:38; 12:50). Jesus, as the King of kings and Lord of lords, even submitted to people (Luke 2:51). Submission is practiced by not forcing an agenda, but trusting God to work His will through people. It is welcoming criticism from others as opportunity for learning and to bless those who curse (2 Pet. 3:8-10). Submission will allow others to make decisions that you would want to make.
Reflection: This is paying attention to your inner self in thoughts and feelings in order to understand how to grow more closely with God and others (Pro. 27:19). It is not for the purpose of loving self more, but examining self to consider what hinders your relationship with God and others. It is always using Scripture as the mirror rather than a physical mirror (Jam. 1:22-25). Reflection is the chewing of biblical truth to extract principles and application in order to determine application and implementation of truth to life. Reflection requires slowing down in life in order to examine areas of life that are always in motion or often not considered, but may encumber relationships. Solitude and Silence often go with Reflection, however they are not required.
Sabbath Rest: This is resting in the Lord rather than working to fix things in life. In the Old Testament it was one of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20: 8). In the New Testament it refers to a moment by moment rest in the Lord (Heb. 4:1-11). It is not working in your flesh, but your flesh may be diligent about what it is doing. It is allowing the Holy Spirit to work through you to accomplish God’s will and leaving the results up to God. It is not a particular day as much as a particular way of trusting God with what is done and pursuing that rest by trusting what God will do through you. Thereby, you are refreshed, because you know that God has been working through you.
This concludes this examination of Spiritual Disciplines. There are excellent books written on the subject. The key is practicing these by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit according to God’s Word, so that God is glorified and you grow in a deeper and more intimate relationship with Him. These principles of spiritual disciplines can all be applied to marriage in similar ways to grow more closely with your spouse.