Who does this stuff?
It was September, 1983. I accepted Christ as a young single adult. In my quest to grow in my new found faith, someone recommended the book, Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. I have to admit, I was overwhelmed at the time, but the book gave me valuable teaching on how to grow in the Christian faith. Fast forward exactly 30 years, and I find myself reading this book once again, but this time carefully examining the truths and teaching it to a group of passionate ladies from my home church.
Considered one of the best modern books ever written on Christian spirituality, Celebration of Discipline is described by Christianity Today as one of the 10 best books of the 20th century. The book explores 12 disciplines, separated into three movements which form a balanced Christian life. The inward disciplines offer avenues for personal evaluation and change. The outward disciplines prepare us to make the world a better place. The corporate disciplines bring us nearer to God and one another.
The book teaches about solitude, Christian meditation, fervent prayer, private confession, living in simplicity and fasting (you know, that’s where you don’t eat). Seriously, how many of us really do this stuff? Foster writes, “The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” He states, “Today there is an abysmal ignorance of the most simple and practical aspects of nearly all the classic spiritual disciplines.” We simply don’t know how to explore the inner life. The result is superficiality, lack of substance and lack of God’s power.
Foster emphasizes that inner transformation is God’s work, and God has given us the disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of placing ourselves before God, so He can transform us. It’s about adjusting ourselves, so that we can receive from God instead of the popular Christian notion in our culture that God has to adjust Himself to our wants and needs. The goal is not to simply modify our behavior but to experience transformation from the inside out. Foster offers a wealth of examples and practical advice on how we can incorporate these disciplines into our daily life. Here is the key: the disciplines are not to be viewed as dull drudgery but experienced in joy and freedom.
I challenge you this summer to add Celebration of Discipline to your summer reading list. Take your time reading it and put into practice what you learn. Challenge yourself to new insights and practices and allow God to stretch you. Try something new in your spiritual life. The disciplines are for every one of us. “All we need to get started is a longing after God”.