Saturday, September 22, 2012

Spiritual Disciplines Influence on Personal Growth

Willard (1996) defined spiritual disciplines as “an ancient tradition of activities which are means of grace, ways of approaching and relating richly to God…activities in our power, things that we can do, to meet God in such a way that we become able to do what we cannot do by direct effort.”  These activities or practices have been helpful for followers of Christ over the centuries:
Categorized through abstinence and engagement, spiritual disciplines emphasize denial of flesh and the connecting to God and other people.  Vos (2012) indicated that Willard describes The Spiritual Disciplines as tried and true activities employed in order to give our spirits more control over our bodies, by molding and shaping our embodied selves.  Vos goes further in the literature stating that the spiritual disciplines are limited in power, because they are designed solely to put us in a place where God's grace can change us; making us totally reliant on God for our spiritual transformation. 

The ideal of personal spiritual growth, in general, is birthed out of pure discipline.  This discipline or obedience may be entailed through routine activities, such as The Spiritual Disciplines, being exercised that create a favorable
-->outcome—synonymous to that of an athlete.  In a Christian capacity, as Vos indicated, we need to be transformed spiritually if we wish to effectively minister.  When taking a closer look at witnessing and The Spiritual Disciplines, the concept of relationship readily comes to surface...whether vertically or horizontally.  At the heart of the spiritual disciplines lies discipleship.

I believe the overarching principles associated with the influence of The Spiritual Disciplines on personal growth is the emphasis of relationship and the heightened sense of accountability.  Proverbs such as "iron sharpens irons..." promote personal growth and the essentially betterment of mankind.  To that end, I believe this sharpening process is only attainable through The Spiritual Disciplines' underlying message of being fully reliant on God. 

Willard, D.(1996). Spirituality: Going beyond the limits. Christian Counseling Today, 4 (1), 16-22.
Willard, D. (1998). Spiritual Disciplines, spiritual formation, and the restoration of the soul. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 26 (1), 101-109.

Vos, B. (2012). The Spiritual Disciplines and Christian ministry. Evangelical Review Of Theology, 36(2), 100-114.  


  1. I find in my own walk and accountability with God that being disciplined is very bittersweet. Putting no confidence in my flesh, but submitting to God is difficult at times. However, just like a runner or weightlifter who through disciplined practice gradually gets better and better, I find the same aspect at work in my spiritual life, which overflows into my marriage and my children. It is well worth the effort. Thanks for your post.

    1. Steve,

      Bittersweet is definitely the word that I can use to describe my walk as well. I find it easy to shift in my temporal emotions whenever I encounter the daily rigor life brings, but I'm learning that possessing true joy is essential in all of this. This same joy makes does indeed make our walk worthwhile. Thinking about what it means to possess this joy also leads me to when James speaks about counting trials as joy, because our faith is being tested and this allows our endurance to develop.

  2. The quote that says "they (spiritual disciplines) are designed solely to put us in a place where God's grace can change us; making us totally reliant on God for our spiritual transformation" reminds me personally of a statement I heard a speaker say about God's will. He said instead of saying "God I want to know your will" we should slice off the "r" and the "will" and say "God I want to know you" and do those things that draw us into a more intimate knowing relationship with God---as a result, we are in His will. Sometimes, I think it's easy to use the spiritual disciplines as a checklist to sort of gauge my spiritual life--in a sense making them about my own strength. I really like the perspective of this writer in this particular quote. The key ingredient of all of this is discipline not just in the doing of these things but in the how to as well---Ortberg says it's not how much we read our Bible, but how we read it...the heart of the doing is so important.

    1. Brandy,

      Thanks for sharing that. I believe it is very insightful. I can admit that I have found myself caught in a selfish mindset even when saying "God, I want to know your will," because I know that it is ultimately beneficial to me...the thought that I always made me reluctant in saying "God, I want to know you," is having to sacrifice myself. I'm glad that I am maturing out of that state; thanks for allowing me to revisit that place and appreciate what God has done for me.

  3. Read this in McMinn's (1996) "Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality" regarding the spiritual disciplines:

    The disciplines are not spiritual, but they provide opportunities to experience God. They are vehicles of spirituality that bring us face-to-face with God's grace. God transforms us as we invite change through using the spiritual disciplines.


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