Misha Elman, one of the greatest violinists of the twentieth century, was walking through the streets of new York City one afternoon when a tourist approached him. “Excuse me sir,” the stranger began, “could you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” Elman sighed deeply and replied, “Practice, practice, practice.”
When I was growing up people would talk about practicing and non-practicing Catholics. We never talked that way about Evangelicals, because we assumed that we were all practicing our faith.
“People who think that they are spiritually superior because they make a practice of a discipline such as fasting… are entirely missing the point. The need for extensive practice of a given discipline is an indication of our weakness, not our strength. As a rule of thumb: if it is easy for us to engage in a certain discipline, we probably don’t need to practice it. The disciplines we need to practice are precisely the ones we are not ‘good at’ and hence do not enjoy.” Dallas Willard
The result of not practicing rigorously for the spiritual life speaks for itself. Growth in the spirit is not something that happens naturally, or by itself. No more than muscles grow without exercise. If a convert’s habits remain the same they will realize little of the life in Christ.
- A message prepared in the mind, reaches the mind, but a message prepared in a life, reaches a life. –Bill Gothard
- “The soul and body make a man; the spirit and disciplines make a Christian.” -John Wesley.
- As Francis Bacon once said, “Reading maketh a full man, speaking a ready man, and writing an exact man.” I would add; spiritual disciplines make a perfect man.
Practice is the key to spontaneity. We cannot behave “on the spot” as Christ/Apostles did if the rest of our time we live as everybody else does. There are no shortcuts to a holy life! There is no apostolic power without apostolic practices. Acts 2:42-43 They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
On the ridge there is a path, the disciplines of the spiritual life. …We must always remember that the path does not produce change; it only places us where the change can occur. The disciplines are a narrow ledge, and we are in danger of falling off either side.
Dallas Willard in Spirit of the Disciplines writes, “The disciplines of abstinence (fasting, solitude, chastity) must be counterbalanced and supplemented with the disciplines of engagement (worship, prayer, meditation). Abstinence counteracts tendencies to sins of commission and the disciplines of engagement counteract tendencies to sins of omission.”
Everybody lives a life of discipline, either to crucify or fulfill the lusts of the flesh. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you would. Galatians 5:16-17
The disciplines are the way we sow to the spirit and mortify the deeds of the body. What is the law of the harvest and its relation to discipline? Galatians 6:7 “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”
Sow a thought, reap an attitude, Sow an attitude, reap an action, Sow an action, reap a habit, Sow a habit, reap a character, Sow a character, reap a destiny.
Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered. Hebrews 5:7-8
The word obedient in the Latin means to listen. Jesus’ life was a life of obedience. He is always listening, always attentive, always alert. Spiritual discipline is the concentrated effort where this kind of obedience can take place in our lives. The power of the disciplines is realized because they are the conduit by which we touch-contact-connect to the indestructible life of Christ. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. Romans 5:10
If we do not experience deep, inner authentic transformation of our character and being then we will be tempted to find external methods to prove our spiritual superiority over others. If we cannot be transformed, we will settle for being informed or conformed. Most of the disciplines of the faith are lost Arts of a faith not practiced.
What we find of Him in that place enables us to return to society as a free person. For how long? That is to be determined by each man. -Dallas Willard