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Practising holy habits

by Jane Silk

At the start of a year many people make resolutions, but most give up on these shortly after 1st January! And over 80% never manage to achieve them at all.

When we become Christians, we are encouraged to develop our faith over time not in a few months or a year. These spiritual disciplines that help us become stronger in our faith.

Unlike the spiritual gifts, which are provided to us by the Holy Spirit, spiritual disciplines are more like finely honed tools that help us in our spiritual walks. Yet each of the spiritual disciplines takes time to develop and effort to incorporate into our daily lives.

The purpose of the Spiritual Disciplines aim to replace the old destructive habits with new life-giving habits.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

How do Spiritual Disciplines work?

Discipline is one of the hardest things for us to learn. The most successful athletes have a keen sense of discipline because they have to build up strength, endurance, and skill to be good at a particular sport. Our favourite writers have the discipline to sit down every day to write, edit, and re-write until the story is right. They hone their language skills and their ability to see a final product in all of the chaos of storytelling. That's what spiritual disciplines are to our faith.

Spiritual disciplines exercise our spirit, mind, and emotions so that we become closer to God. They help us see His will for our lives more clearly so that we can live the life He desires for us. The more we practice these disciplines, the better we get at them, and the stronger we make our faith.

We should rejoice that we are not left to our own devices but have been given this means of God’s grace for the changing of our inner spirit.

Richard Foster – Celebration of discipline, The Path to Spiritual Growth

Spiritual Disciplines – keep it simple

Spiritual disciplines also help us simplify our faith. How often do we just feel discouraged because we don't quite know what to do or if our decisions are right or not? Spiritual disciplines have a way of clearing out these superfluous things so we can just get back to basics. Sometimes we just overcomplicate things, and spiritual disciplines can keep us from making our spiritual lives more difficult.

By practising spiritual disciplines, we also keep our eyes on God more often. When we focus on God, we stop letting other things get in our way or cloud our vision. Our lives find clarity when we become more disciplined in our faith.

Types of Spiritual Disciplines

There are two types of spiritual disciplines -- those that are personal and those that are corporate. The personal disciplines are those that each individual should develop for him or herself, while the corporate disciplines are one that the entire church body can do together.

Personal Disciplines

Internal

· Meditation

· Prayer

· Fasting

· Bible Study

External

· Simplicity

· Solitude

· Submission

· Service

Corporate Disciplines

The pitfalls of Spiritual Disciplines

Becoming more disciplined in our faith is a good thing, as long as those disciplines are managed responsibly. Sometimes we can lose sight of why we started developing our discipline in the first place. When it becomes more about memorising verses than learning what they mean or when it becomes more about the act of fasting than talking to God in our times of sacrifice, we're not using our disciplines to really develop our faith.

Also, when we feel we cannot possibly be good enough Christians without those disciplines, then we lose sight of what spiritual disciplines are supposed to do. Instead, spiritual disciplines become more like superstitions and we may rely too much on our spiritual habits rather than keeping our eyes on God.

Practices such as reading Scripture and praying are important — not because they prove how spiritual we are — but because God can use them to lead us in our lives.

As Richard Foster says, “We should rejoice that we are not left to our own devices but have been given this means of God’s grace for the changing of our inner spirit.”

We would love you to share the spiritual disciplines you incorporate into your daily lives and suggest ways or give access to sources that can help others. Please do send them in to us so we can share them with others.

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