Spiritual Disciplines 002: The Mindset for Value
Wow. There’s some pretty seriously disciplined eating out there. Gluten free, Sugar free, Raw non-filtered, free range, certified organic, non-GMO, farm-fresh, no hormone, antibiotic free, and anything else you could want (and will pay extra for). It takes discipline to avoid the Dirty Dozen and to aim for the Clean Fifteen. But it’s not just the foodies who are disciplining themselves.
There are also some pretty seriously obsessed –uh—committed— exercise fanatics out there. Get out the weights, roll out the yoga mats, crank up the workout jams, pop in the P90x and Crossfit videos, and cue the sweat. You know what I’m talking about.
Why are people so disciplined about diet and exercise? Because garbage in is garbage out. Because it’s important to take good care of your body. Because it benefits your long-term outlook and improves your quality of life. Because mom said so. Wait— strike that last one from the record. Call it what you want, it’s because of the benefits. People perceive the benefits – so they develop a mindset that aims for the value of the discipline.
Note the key-phrase there: “a mindset that aims for the value.” That’s what we have to have when it comes to the spiritual disciplines. They are not a stationary or circular effort, they are a forward motion towards a goal. They are not the end, but the means to the end.
In Part 1 of this series, we began to look at 1 Tim 4:7-10. In verses 8 and 9, Paul continues in his instruction to Timothy with the reason the spiritual disciplines are so important for us. And it’s all about a mindset that sees the value: “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way”
The analogy is clear. We all understand bodily training. It makes you stronger and healthier, it improves your quality of life, it allows you to live up to your full potential. There is a value to it.
Pumping weights, special diets, training videos, workout music – what would the spiritual equivalent of all that be? If we should be just as disciplined spiritually as many people are physically, then what should that look like? What are the spiritual disciplines God has given us in Scripture? Here’s the list I handed out to our College group as we study through them this summer.
The Bible has a term for someone who faithfully and consistently does all of the things on this list: a Christian. This is normal Christianity. Apart from Journaling, which is an optional discipline, all of these are the expected norm of everyday Christians in the Scripture.
All of these “disciplines” are just normal Christianity, and the goal of this series of blog posts will be to walk through each one, providing biblical clarity and practical suggestions for application. We should note that these are all fairly unremarkable things: prayer, bible reading, fellowship. They are ordinary. We must remember that God uses ordinary means to accomplish extraordinary things in our lives.
You might look at this list and think, “That’s a lot to do.” And it is a lot to do – if you are thinking about it as things to do. But that’s part of the mindset here. When you begin to see the value of something, you don’t look at it as simply a task to accomplish anymore.
How you think about a list matters.
When you look at your weekend task list, you rarely think, “I wish I had more work to do around the house this weekend.” No, you think, “I wish there were fewer things on this list.” You know you have to do them, but there is a large part of you that is dreading it. You will likely procrastinate. You will certainly look forward to having the list completed.
A dessert menu is also a list, but you look at a Dessert Menu much differently. It is a list of happy and wonderful things which will delight you because you get something good out of this list. You smile as you read this list. Nobody says, “There are way too many things on this list!” You might think, “What kind of dessert menu is this? Why are there only four items on here? That’s hardly a dessert menu!”
In the same way, how you view the list of Spiritual Disciplines matters. If you are looking at the Spiritual Disciplines as a “Spiritual Task List,” you will be overwhelmed. But if you are looking at it as “Ways to get more of Christ” You will be thinking, “gimmee more!” You smile as you read this list.
That’s just what the Spiritual Disciplines are. Ways to get more of Christ. Ways to enjoy him – to find our joy in him, just as he meant it to be. The list of Spiritual Disciplines, these habits of grace, is a list of happy and wonderful things which will delight you because you get something good out of this list.
Donald Whitney says, “Think of the Spiritual Disciplines as ways we can place ourselves in the path of God’s grace and seek him.” In the preface to his book “Habits of Grace,” David Matthis makes the point, “The note we will strike again and again, without any apology, is that the means of grace, fleshed out in our various habits of grace, are to be for us a means of joy in God.”
Joy in God. The end goal here is not simply to “be a more disciplined person” or to “work harder and be better.” The great and wonderful aim of the spiritual disciplines is to dive deeper into “the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8). So let us have that mindset for the spiritual discipleines—a mindset that sees the true value here and says with Hosea 6:3, “Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord.”