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December 13, 2015

One Step at a Time


As I've been reading through Dallas Willard's book, The Spirit of the Disciplines, I've thought about the reality of how difficult and misunderstood spiritual disciplines can be. I've encountered Christians with no discipline and no self control, they make a habit of doing what they want and then wonder why they struggle to deny self. I've encountered others who put their practice of spiritual disciplines on display for all to see thinking this is what makes a man spiritual. In reality the only thing that develops us spiritually is our obedience in following Jesus Christ. Every self-denying step I take towards him will be a profitable one. When I teach discipleship, I can sometimes see anxiety in people's eyes as if they just realized that the demands of discipleship are too hard for them. I can feel them backing away from what the Holy Spirit is teaching them. I've found this is one of the tactics of the enemy. He gets us to look too far down the road and we get scared. Instead I encourage them to just take the one step in front of you. Just do this one thing with Jesus and then then next. I think David was not ready to be king when Samuel anointed him as a shepherd boy. I think Moses was not ready to free Israel when he fled Egypt. When Jesus walked by the sea and called to his disciples he didn't ask them to change the world, suffer, and die; he simply said come follow me. As we follow him, we grow and receive from him all we need to continue.

If we find we're unable to take the steps to follow Christ in obedience, then we need the spiritual disciplines to help us get there. The key to the disciplines is to apply them where we are weak. Willard share the example of the 120 disciples who wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit is the upper room. Some of these same men could not watch one hour in prayer with Jesus in the garden. If you understand this concept, your own flesh will tell you where you need more work. Put yourself in situations where you can practice in the areas of your weakness. If you find your always in a hurry with God and have no time to wait on the Lord in pray and worship, then maybe some practice in the discipline of solitude would be a good idea. Just be willing and listen to the Holy Spirit. I like the story in the Mark 9 where the father of a sick boy says to Jesus "Help my unbelief." This is the same attitude we must have when approaching spiritual disciplines. I am really struggling, but Jesus "Help me in my weakness."