Monday, May 03, 2010

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, by Donald S. Whitney here's a good book! Convicting (in an "ouch, ouch, ouch!" sort of way), thought-provoking and motivational.

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life was originally published in 1991 so it's been around for awhile. A friend recently pointed it out to me and so now, not do I feel encouraged by this book but by the fact that she was friendly enough to suggest it! (Thanks, you-know-who!)

If you've ever read a book by Jerry Bridges and liked it, then I'm pretty sure you will like Donald S. Whitney's approach to sharing doctrine and motivating his reader to apply it to life. He has the same kind of easy going manner, and yet despite his calm demeanor, he never waivers in his devotion to truth. I found his style warm and approachable which makes it easier to take in his message.

And what is his message? That to know God and follow after Him, we must discipline ourselves to learn more of who He is. If we know who God is, Whitney maintains that we will be changed by His holiness.

"The Spiritual Disciplines are the God-given means we are to use in the Spirit-filled pursuit of Godliness." (page 17)
Whitney further explains that God uses three primary means of changing us and conforming us to Christlikeness but points out that only one of these means falls primarily under our control. These three "tools", if you will, are as follows:

  • People ("As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" Prov. 27:17)
  • Circumstances ("We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28)
  • The spiritual disciplines ("Exercise thyself rather unto godliness." 1 Timothy 4:7)

Whitney then encourages the reader to think of Spiritual Disciplines as spiritual exercises, which grow and strengthen one's faith. The Spiritual Disciplines that he covers/suggests in this book are as follows:

  1. Bible intake
  2. Prayer
  3. Worship
  4. Evangelism
  5. Serving
  6. Stewardship
  7. Fasting
  8. Silence and Solitude
  9. Journaling
  10. Learning
  11. Perseverance in all of these things

Chapter by chapter he explains the importance of making a regular habit of out each of these things and he makes some pretty compelling points! I feel woefully unqualified to say I'm a Christian (but I mean that in a good way!) I never want to come to a point in time or a place in my life where I think I've got it all together and am coasting just fine, thanks! The moment I start to coast is the moment I start to rely on myself and not on God. I'd rather feel a sense of desperation - to know that there is still more to learn, to practice, to develop, to understand. Feeling like I'm "not all there yet" keeps me humble. When I read this book, I certainly am humbled!

I found this book to be inspiring. I walked away from each chapter feeling like I could easily pursue the things Whitney was spelling out as disciplines for the faith. But see, even in my last sentence I presented you with the "catch." The catch in all of this is that I could easily pursue these Disciplines but that it won't be easy. It's easy to read about them. It's harder to actually practice them. Even in disciplining myself, human nature creeps in and I think that I should be able to know God more fully by not trying half as hard. I live my life in such a way as to assume that one bright, bold and glorious day, God will yell down from the Heavens everything that He wants me to know and I will be perfectly whole and holy. It's like wanting to lose weight. I want to wake up tomorrow morning and be ten pounds lighter. I want to lose weight by sleeping. (Oh. And by eating!)

But it doesn't work that way. (Unfortunately.)

In order to know God, one must run a race. (And who - in their right mind? - likes to run?) 2 Tim. 2:5

In this particular book review you see the entire point and purpose of my blogging at all. It is to read, process and apply what I've read to my own life. I write to remember. I write to emphasize points in my own head. One point which seems to need repetition is that in order to know God, I must learn Him. And learning takes time. And effort. And.....discipline. (Have you got that yet, Carrie? Bah!)

There were two chapters that stood out to me as being particularly thought-provoking. One was chapter 7 on serving. I wanted to squeeze stuff out of that chapter, so I wrote up a "review" of that chapter alone over at Offering Hospitality. The next chapter that I thought was provoking was Chapter 12 which is entitled, "Learning . . . for the Purpose of Godliness."

In Chapter 12 Whitney makes the point that Christians aren't called to be stupid - abstaining from any knowledge of the world or scholarly devotion. We should be focused on learning doctrine because if we do not know the basics facets of why we believe what we believe, our spiritual walk will be shallow and it will be easier to fall away from it. We should be constantly learning and studying scriptures, history, literature, sciences, math, etc., and to know these things well. I'm probably not doing justice to the way that Whitney describes the pursuit of knowledge but it boils down to this: knowing God and knowing what He is about is a GOOD thing and we should not have to choose ignorance in order to say that we are Christians.

To summarize, at the beginning of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Whitney invites his readers to learn to enjoy the Spiritual Disciplines to deepen and improve their spiritual walk with God. I found his invitation warm and genuine and am, indeed, encouraged to keep running forward. If you find yourself in need of some encouragement to pick up the pace and reapply yourself to knowing God, then might I suggest this book?

Thank you, NavPress for the opportunity to read this book.


bekahcubed said...

I just might have to read this book. I greatly enjoy Jerry Bridges--and if Whitney is anything like him, he's got to be good. (Not to mention that the subject matter is something I can always use growth in.)

Ronnica said...

A great book...I need to re-read it sometime soon!

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