The Joy of Discipline
“Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy
As we recently finished our Hot Topics series at church, we have been thinking a lot about changing society, helping the least of these and what we can do for our community. But in order to be a continual force for change in the world, even in our community, we have to be in the right place with our own spiritual growth. Although we talk more about praying and reading our Bible than anything, there are other spiritual disciplines that could benefit us just as much. Throughout Christian history these are tried and true ways of connecting to the Lord in a meaningful way. They can break us out of a rut. They can open our eyes to things that we need to change. They have worked for 2000 years for Christians and are a necessary practice for any mature Christian. Because our spiritual health is being maintained, these habits can change our very nature and bring joy and peace to the most difficult of circumstances.
One of the most surprising “disciplines” is the practice of celebration. We don’t often think of celebrating as a way to grow spiritually. It is something you do at a birthday party. But Jesus said in John 15:11 that “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” If the joy of the Lord is our strength, then it makes sense we need to find the joy in our life – even when life is hard. Maybe even more so when life is hard. If you find it difficult, one way to incorporate celebration into your life is to set aside one day a week and do the things you love. Eat the food you like. Listen to your favorite music. Play your favorite game with your family. And while you are doing the things you love, give thanks to God for the joy it brings, for His love and grace in your life.
While the Bible doesn’t give explicit instructions on many of these disciplines, they are mentioned in scripture. Fasting, solitude, confession, celebration and meditation are all talked about at some point in scripture, but there isn’t a how-to list. There are some great books out there to help you discover these disciplines. “The Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster and “The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People” by John Ortberg are two books that I have read and provide a great starting point. Dietrich Bonhoeffer also has written on the subject. Even in the midst of World War II, he said “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” Take some time and learn more about these disciplines. It will enrich your life and bring you to the place where you are eating solid meat, not milk, as spiritual babies. Then as mature Christians, we are able to be the change in the world we know needs to take place.