I just completed Don Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. I certainly recommend it to you as a helpful guide in developing the spiritual disciplines in your own life. One thought I want to pass along comes toward the latter half of the last chapter where Whitney answers a common objection to disciplining oneself spiritually:
There are no shortcuts to Godliness. But the flesh broods for an easier way than through the Spiritual Disciplines [Bible Intake, Prayer, Evangelism, Serving, Stewardship, Fasting, Silence and Solitude, Journaling, Learning and Perseverance]. It protests, “Why can’t the Christian life be more extemporaneous and unstudied? All this talk of disciplining myself sounds legalistic and regimented and harder than I thought being like Christ should be. I just want to be spontaneous!”…
Certainly we want spontaneity, but spontaneity without discipline is superficial. I have several friends who can improvise beautiful melodies on the keyboard or the guitar. But the only reason they can play so “spontaneously” is because they have spent years in the disciplines of playing musical scales and other fundamental exercises. Jesus could live so spiritually “spontaneous” because He was in reality the most spiritually disciplined man who ever lived. Do nothing and you will live spontaneously. But if you desire effective spontaneity in the Christian life, it must be the fruit of a spiritually disciplined faith (246-247).
I am starting to realize that the Holy Spirit is primarily about empowering discipline rather than causing constant spiritual “spontaneity.” In fact, I wonder if my desire for spontaneity is merely a guise for laziness, cloaked in spiritual terms, so that I might convince myself and others of my spirituality, while going through life bouncing from thing to thing according to my own whims and desires. I think I now agree with John Guest, who is quoted on page 247 in the book, “The fact of the matter is that discipline is the only way to freedom; it is the necessary context for spontaneity.” May this year be a year of growth in the Spiritual Disciplines.