Faith & Reason ... a mystery

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Celebration of Discipline: Seeking Spiritual Growth



 I want to recommend this book. In this blog, I hope to bring to fruition some of the insights, “eureka” moments, and personal challenges I received by reading Richard J. Foster's book, “Celebration of Discipline.” The book is structured in a way that any believer can read it, but it also is a book that needs digestion and should not be read as a novel. In fact, I have found the book to be life changing as it has greatly increased my awareness in the area of not dedicating enough of my life to the Christian disciplines. 
 
Throughout the book, I kept asking myself, “God so desires a relationship with me, why am I so lax in responding to that relationship? Where has my heart been to be content in settling for knowing Him, worshiping Him and studying Him?” All of these are steps in the right direction, but I have not been seeking or asking the right question, “How can I live Him in all that I am?” In other words, Foster has challenged me to live beyond the typical in seeking to grasp the supernatural through working, practicing, and capturing the essence of spiritual disciplines. 
 
I gained new insight on the difference between meditation and study. I have always been taught, or at least practiced, meditation and study were accomplished as one unit. Foster details how many times Godly fixtures of scripture go to meditation. Jesus repeatedly retreats to a place to meditate and pray. I have gained from several quotes throughout the book, but the two quotes on the discipline of meditation that resonates with me are, “God spoke to them not because they had special abilities, but because they were willing to listen.”1 and “Christian meditation, is the ability to hear God's voice and obey His word.”2 He then proceeds to explain this discipline while coaching the reader to use caution. When we hear the voice of God it is always rewarding but it can also be very risky. God calls us to trust Him and get out of the comforts of being able to do it ourselves.

I have known when God has spoken to me in the past. In fact, I can report of several times in my life that I knew God was leading and speaking. I have learned from Foster's work that I need to make listening more intentional. It is not about listening for the big events or decisions that need to be made, but rather to listen in the everyday life for typical events as well as the major events. A take away learning from this specific discipline was the suggestion that meditation is to take the “words of scripture as words from someone you love and ponder them in your heart”3 and that is meditation.
The second learning to report on is the discipline of Solitude. Foster states, “Silence is one of the deepest Disciplines of the Spirit simply because it puts the stopper on all self-justification.”4 I have never intentionally designed a time of complete solitude for the purpose of seeking and hearing from God. I had not put together that solitude is a means for God to work and for me to get out of the way. He is our justification and when we tune our hearts and minds to his will, we become less and He becomes more. One suggestion Foster provides for solitude is to take a day away from communication5 and I found that to be something I am not sure I could do. Although, I would not think I myself as communication dependent, I find myself fearful of not being connected to the technological communications offered in today's world. Although a challenge for me, Foster is correct in teaching that our words should be few, while filled with Godly communication, demonstrating a complete dependence on God. My discipline of solitude is to separate from the vast communication tools within modern grasp and rely on Him for words and responses.

A third “eureka moment” is my need for a spiritual director. Foster states, “In the middle Ages not even the greatest saints attempted the depth of the inward journey without the help of a spiritual director.”6  I need to to have someone that I can confess, share a need, and seek advice in a way that is outside the circle of circumstance with the intent that the person will fast and pray for words of direction to offer.

This Spiritual Director is also a challenge for me. I am a private person and in the world of ministry most of my colleagues are striving to be better then the next guy or gal. That dynamic is intimidating and very threatening to share. I have taken heart in knowing that the “Spirit will never lead in opposition to the written word.”7Thus, in study of the word, I have felt, I could find the guidance on my own.

The biggest challenge for me is the desire in my heart to be more like Christ and learn to live these Spiritual disciplines in all that I am. Yet, I find myself internally in conflict with my drive to always be engaged. I relate more to Martha when Jesus tells her to calm down and slow down and bow down to listen to His teachings. The world is filled with talented people that can demonstrate on the outside the fake perception that all is under control and lead with a religious flare. I seek and want to be a Godly man that truly demonstrates a dependence on God while demonstrating and living the disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration. 
 
Foster's work has caused my thinking to change and the means of processing information for the Kingdom, my family, and for my personal walk with the Lord. It was a challenge to accept the self examination. It was worth the effort as a Christ-Follower to step up and start practicing the Disciplines for a Godly purpose.

Check this book out...it is the effort. You know I love ya, Don

1Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (San Francisco: HarperCollins 1978,: repr., 1988: repr. 1998.) 16.

2Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (San Francisco: HarperCollins 1978,: repr., 1988: repr. 1998.) 17.

3Ibid. 29.

4Ibid. 101.

5Ibid. 107.

6Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (San Francisco: HarperCollins 1978,: repr., 1988: repr. 1998.) 185.

7Ibid., 188.

No comments: