Friday, August 3, 2007

Spiritual Disciplines Beat #1: The Word.

Discipline has long been a watchword of mine. It has even been a source of pride for me. I am proud I have the discipline to work out each week in order to keep my body strong. I am proud I have the discipline to finish what I start. An area that I struggle in discipline is probably the area where I most need it.

My pastor, Daron Earlewine gave a sermon series a few months ago relating the four major spiritual disciplines to the four beats in a common measure of music. As Daron suggested, the Word of God is the first beat in the rhythm of our spirit. When it is missing, everything is messed up and the other three beats can't even get off the ground. The remaining three beats of prayer, silence/solitude, and worship all fall into line when we spend time in the Word.

Discipline makes the body ready to obey. The parallel I draw to this is basketball. I have played basketball since the time I could first grasp a ball. I rebounded the balls for years for my Kats growing up, learning basic passing skills just getting them the ball back after missed shots. I trained for numerous summers at coach Mawbey's camps to work on my dribbling and my shot. I recognize that I am still not very good at it, but I have trained my body to the point where I am comfortable and natural in most of my movements on the basketball floor. The same is true for baseball. If I watch someone who has never played the game before their mimicking movements are obviously not as smooth as someone who has played the game for years.

    This carries over to spiritual disciplines. Our movements will naturally be awkward at first as we try out new things. The intention alone to move is not enough though. Intention is good for a start, but no one will be satisfied with simply starting something and never improving. This is where I believe the Holy Spirit comes in. he gives us the drive at first to get going and get on the right path. We must still pull our own weight, even when it comes to motivation, but the Spirit is the initial push. The Spirit gives us an idea of what the rhythm we need is, and it starts with the Word.

    The parable of the seeds in Luke Chapter 8 is a fantastic allegory of our study of the Word. When it stands on its own, like the seed on the road, in the thorns, or on the rocky soil, it cannot flourish. When we study the word in conjunction with the other three beats of our spiritual discipline it grows like the seed in the good soil. In turn, the Word makes everything else around us better and it makes the other three disciplines have more meaning.

    It takes discipline for the Word to have effectiveness though, and it is a discipline that is difficult to master. In this world it is easy to sacrifice time spent with the Word in order to pursue other desires, and it takes a strong will to stay on the path. As Daron said, good intentions are a great start, but you have to follow them up with action. While the Word is the downbeat that drives everything, It is not the entire song that makes our heart dance. It is also supplemented by the other three disciplines, which complement the Word instead of going against it.

    The parable of the seeds is continued in verse 15 with,

"But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance." Luke 8:15


    I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as bad study of the Word. If you're simply spending time with the Word just to spend time in there, driven by some internal discipline, something good has to come out of it. Christ teaches that the Word itself bears no ill fruit, so something good has to come out of time spent in faithful study.

    It is a challenge, I know. Some days I admit I just open up my bible for the sake of opening it. I also admit I am not blown away by whatever passage I land on 100% of the time. Still, I have found myself reading sections that have made no sense before, but are suddenly clear in the light of a new day.

    As we spend more and more time in the Word though, it becomes more alive.


  1. How are ways that the Word has come alive for you, even on the most ordinary of days?
  2. How has prayer and fasting supplemented your study of the Word, such as combining the two?
  3. What role does perseverance, as we learned in the book of James, play when it comes to discipline?


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