When I first read Richard Foster’s The Celebration of Discipline, I did not like it. Its twelve chapters are organized around 12 spiritual disciplines. I felt like I was already not reading the Bible and praying enough–now I have ten more activities I have to feel guilty about?
Guilt, while very necessary to convict us (that’s why we’re only taking ’some’ away), is not a good long-term sustainable fuel source.
On the other hand, I don’t just drift into spiritual growth. So how do I know what spiritual practices might be helpful to me?
Here’s one of the most helpful insights I know, courtesy of Dallas Willard.
Sins can be divided into two types:
1. Sins of Omission (lovelessness, joylessness,–things I DON’T do)
2. Sins of Comission (lying, gossiping–things I DO)
Disciplines can be divided into two related types:
1. Disciplines of Engagement (study, worship–things I DO)
2. Discipines of Abstinence (fasting, solitude–things I DON’T DO)
Generally–when I wrestle with a sin of omission, I will be helped by a discipline of engagement. For instance, if I struggle with joylessness I will be helped by the practice of celebration. If I struggle with being miserly I will be helped by the practice of giving.
When I wrestle with a sin of Comission, I will be helped by a practice of Abstinence. If I struggle with gossip I will be helped by practicing silence; if I wrestle with ‘impression management’ I will be helped by solitude.
I personally wrestle with enough sins that I never run out of practices that can be helpful. But I no longer feel guilty about not keeping up with someone else’s devotional list. I have more important things to feel guilty about.
The disciplines are a means to an end. The end is–life!