Spiritual Disciplines 001: The Call for Training
“Here I am, guys! I’ll bet I can run faster than you!” You don’t just show up at the Olympics to compete. No, Olympic athletes spend years, sometimes their whole life, training. An untrained athlete is an athlete destined to fail when it counts. In the same way, the Christian life is a life of training. An untrained Christian is a Christian destined to fail when it counts.
“The Spiritual Disciplines” as they have been called, seem to have fallen on hard times. Maybe it’s because people aren’t familiar with what the Bible teaches about these things. Maybe it’s because we’re confused. Maybe we’re just lazy. Maybe all of the above.
God has called you as a believer to “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for while bodily discipline is of some value, godliness is of value in every way.” 1 Tim 4:7
Another way to think about this verse:
- Ignore unbiblical nonsense
- Discipline yourself to grow
When it comes to the standard American Evangelical fare on how to grow, everyone is looking for a shortcut. As a result, it seems that “irreverent silly myths” and unbiblical nonsense are the norm. Some will pray for visions and dreams. Others will tell you to get out into nature to “connect with God.” The shelves in Christian bookstores will tell (sell) you just about anything you want to hear. Sadly, there are too few people talking about what God says in his Word about how we should grow (see also 2 Tim 4:3). Everyone is looking for a shortcut. There aren’t any.
Paul tells Timothy to “have nothing to do with” these things, “rather,” he says, “discipline yourself.” It's just a matter of good old-fashioned self-discipline.
“The secret is: there is no secret. You have to work hard.”
The word in the Greek is an athletic word. It’s “gymnadzo,” like gymnasium. Imagine you walk into a gym full of people working out. Some are running in place over by the bleachers, dudes in the corner lifting weighs, some people doing pushups at half-court. You hear the squeak of sneakers on the floor; you smell the sweat. Then you blink, and BLAM––It’s a church full of Christians, reading their bibles together, praying for one another over by the window, someone up front preaching, people in the back row on their faces in prayer. Training.
So this is where we get this idea of “The Spiritual Disciplines,” and this is what this series of blog posts will be focused on. Yes, we grow as God works in us (Phil 2:13). Yes, it is God's grace that sanctifies and sustains us. But this does not negate the fact that there are ways to train yourself for the purpose of godliness, particular actions that God gives us to do as believers who want more of Christ.
There is a disposition of discipline to the Christian life, and it is an intentional, focused training in certain biblically defined categories to put yourself in the pathways of God’s grace so that you can enjoy more of Jesus Christ.
That's a critical sentence right there. Read it again. Think on it. Pray about it.
In this series of blog posts, we’ll be diving into what those biblically defined categories are. The page below provides in printable summary form, how I determined to delineate the Spiritual Disciplines (Habits of Grace) for my teaching series with our College Bible Study this summer. The blog posts will follow the same general flow.