As usual, the work week begins about dawn Monday. Very little flex time is built into the schedule of showering, dressing, eating, getting the kids ready, and heading out the door. From then on, most of the day is spent on the run. The kids are taken to school and errands are run and work is done around the house or the yard until the very minute you have to get the kids from school. Or else you battle the traffic to work where you make it just at starting time and plug away relentlessly until the hour when you join the quitting queue on the road again.
Once home, often after a hasty, but necessary stop or two on the way, you find it’s more and more common to shove a meal in the microwave while you hurriedly change clothes for your evening responsibilities. One or two nights a week it’s a school-related function with the kids. Another night might find the entire family at a midweek service at church. Still another night holds a committee responsibility for someone. Next, throw in an occasional night of working late or doing work at home, work-related travel, or work around the house. Don’t forget the nights of bill paying, checkbook balancing, homework helping, community involvement, classes, hobbies, and socializing.
Complicating all this may come the pressures of single parenting, family conflict, illness, job stress, a second job, financial tension, and so on.
Sound familiar? Is your life a testimony to the surveys that tell us—despite all our labor-saving devices and technological advancements—leisure time has decreased dramatically in the last generation?
Then you read this book, which encourages you to practice all these Spiritual Disciplines. And it makes you feel like a tired, staggering juggler on a highwire, trying to keep a dozen eggs in the air with someone else wanting to throw you a half dozen more.
I’ve come to the conclusion that, with rare exceptions, the Godly person is a busy person. The Godly person is devoted to God and to people, and that leads to a full life. Though never frantic in pace, Jesus was a busy Man. Read Mark’s gospel and notice how often the word immediately describes the transition from one event in Jesus’ life to the next. We read of Him sometimes ministering all day and until after dark, then getting up before dawn to pray and travel to the next ministry venue. The gospels tell of occasional nights when He never slept at all. They tell us He got tired, so tired that He could sleep in an open, storm-tossed ship. Crowds of people pressed upon Him almost daily. Everyone wanted time with Him and clamored for His attention. None of us knows “job-related stress” like the kind He continually experienced. If Jesus’ life, as well as that of Paul, were measured against the “balanced life” envisioned by many Christians today, they would be considered workaholics who sinfully neglected their bodies. Scripture confirms what observation perceives: laziness never leads to Godliness.
All this is to say that the Spiritual Disciplines have always been what can make a Godly person out of a busy person. The Spiritual Disciplines aren’t intended only for Christians who have a lot of spare time on their hands (where are they?). They are the God-given means by which busy believers become like Christ. God offers His life-changing grace to taxi-driving, errand-running moms, to hard-working, overcommitted dads, to homework-heavy, extracurricular-busy students, to schedule-packed singles, to responsibility-overloaded single parents—in short, to every believer—through the Spiritual Disciplines.
But how can we keep up the pace? For one thing, God’s voice regarding priorities can best be heard while practicing the Spiritual Disciplines. The older you grow, the more you tend to accumulate responsibilities like barnacles. The addition and growth of children requires an increase in attention to their lives in school, sports, and transportation. Job advancement brings with it more commitments as well as opportunities. The accumulation of goods and property over the years tends to escalate the time you must devote to their maintenance. All this means that periodically your life will call for an evaluation of priorities. Perhaps through the Discipline of Bible intake, or prayer, or worship, or silence and solitude, or journaling, God might speak to you about which activities are “barnacles” that must be cut away. Instead of seeing the Spiritual Disciplines as additional weight, they are actually one of the ways God uses to help lighten your load and give you smoother sailing.
Even with the consistent evaluation of priorities, the Godly person will continue to be a busy person. However, the busy person is also the one most tempted to lapse in the practice of the very Disciplines that lead to Godliness. Without practicing the Spiritual Disciplines we will not be Godly, but neither will we be Godly without perseverance in practicing the Disciplines. Even a slow, plodding perseverance in the Spiritual Disciplines is better than a sometimes spectacular but generally inconsistent practice.
How can we be more persevering in the Disciplines of Godliness? When the emotions that usually accompany the beginning of a Spiritual Discipline have ebbed, how can we stay faithful? There are three things that have been seldom mentioned so far which, when better understood, will help you persevere in the practice of the Spiritual Disciplines. They are the role of the Holy Spirit, the role of fellowship, and the role of struggle in Christian living.
THE ROLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Wherever the Holy Spirit dwells, His presence creates a hunger for holiness. His office is to magnify Christ, and it is He who gives the believer a desire to be like Christ. The natural man has no such passion. But in the Christian, the Spirit of God begins to carry out the will of God to make the child of God like the Son of God (Romans 8:29). And He who began this good work in the life of the believer “will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
So it is the role of the Holy Spirit to produce within us the desire and the power for the Disciplines that lead to Godliness. That He develops this in every believer is evident from 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” Therefore, whether or not your natural temperament or personality inclines toward orderly and disciplined habits, the presence of the Holy Spirit within you equips you with enough of a supernatural “spirit of … self-discipline” for you to obey the command to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.”
Whitney, Donald S. 1991. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
We have just completed a 13-Part Study of Donald Whitney’s classic book, Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life. It is available as part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Lesson Subscription Service. It is also available on Amazon