Lesson 3 - Spiritual Disciplines Pt 2





This lesson will deal with the remainder of the Spiritual Disciplines introduced in Lesson 2.  Although less detail will be shared for each of these (for the sake of brevity), that does not mean they are less valuable or not as important.  While the disciplines mentioned in the previous lesson are critical for all Christians, some may find that one or more of these disciplines are just as beneficial – if not more so – that the ones already discussed.





There are probably very few among us who can truthfully say that we already make evangelism a regular, disciplined practice in our lives.  Therefore, all of us need this discipline.   Who could really say with honesty “I share my faith enough… I don’t need to share my faith any more than I do”?  Hopefully, none of us would say that because no matter how much we might share our faith, we could always share more.  Even those of us who are very faithful evangelists would probably admit they too could do more.  Truthfully, as long as there are still lost souls, there will always be a need for additional evangelism.

Because of this, most of us probably share the same hidden concern, asking ourselves the same question: “Am I sharing the gospel enough?”  There is a reason we feel this way.  It is the Holy Spirit reminding us of a very important truth about evangelism:


God has no other plan for the salvation of the world than for his people – us – to spread the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.


Is God capable of saving the world without us?  That is without question - he most certainly could.  However, that is not the plan that he has set in motion.  Rather, his plan includes our participation.  Consider what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 10:13-15.


13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.


14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?


15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!


Our evangelism efforts are the only plan that God has ordained for distributing the gospel message.

Given that truth, how does the discipline of evangelism help us become better Christians?  First of all, evangelism is a demonstration of obedience.  Jesus’ last command to us before leaving this earth was to spread the gospel to all peoples.  When we do not share the gospel, we are being disobedient to Jesus Christ.  How can spiritual growth occur when there is consistent disobedience in our lives? Therefore, the very practice of evangelism is an act of obedience that is beneficial to our spiritual growth.

Second, evangelism is an exercise in faith.  Evangelism is one of those unique areas of the Christian life where we are commanded to do something, but yet we have absolutely no impact on the outcome of that action.  We can share the gospel, but only God can save the soul, and only the hearer can choose to believe.  This requires great faith on our part that our efforts will not be in vain.

Third, evangelism is an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. Acts 1:8 says we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon us and we will be his witnesses.  Each of us who claims to be a Christian is a witness whether we want to be or not.  Our witness may be a good witness – or a bad one.  Our lives are a witness that testifies to our beliefs, but evangelism is how we put feet on our witness.  When we step out in faith to witness, we do so in the power of the Holy Spirit, allowing him to work through us.

Here is the harsh reality we all face when it comes to evangelism: We are all afraid to witness because

·      Satan whispers fear (and lies) into our hearts about it, and

·      We know how important and serious it is.


Yes, perhaps there are a few out there who do experience no anxiety when they share the gospel, but they are the exception rather than the norm.  If you are afraid or anxious about sharing your faith, know that you are not alone.  The fear you may have regarding evangelism is not unique.  However, you must also understand that the fear you have is Satan’s primary weapon against the spread of the gospel, second only to the lie that no one wants to hear what we have to say.   As such, we must deal with that fear directly.  Once we realize that our fears are Satan’s tool to cripple us, we can give that fear over to God and to pray that God would deliver us from those fears.  We may never be at a place where such anxieties are non-existent, but we can be at a place where Jesus can give us victory over them.

Fortunately, we all have the same Holy Spirit in us enabling us to be a witness.  Our strength and courage to share the gospel comes from him.  Our part is to recognize – and then act upon - those opportunities.   God places those opportunities to witness before us every day.   It is our choice to be disciplined enough to take advantage of them and share the gospel.





One of the disciplines we talked about in the previous lesson was worship.  However, one of the best ways you can worship God is through the discipline of service.  Consider what is says in Romans 12:1


I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.


That last part of the verse – “which is your reasonable service” – can also be translated as “which is your reasonable act of worship.”  There is a direct connection between our worship of God and our service to God.

This relationship exists because ultimately we were created to serve God.  Ephesians 2:8-9 reminds us that we are saved by grace and not by works, but look at what it says in the very next verse.


Ephesians 2:10 - For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.


You were created to serve.  No matter who you are, God has a plan of service for your life that he planned out before the creation of the world.  Ask yourself this question: What motivates you to serve?  Or perhaps a more important question should be: What should motivate our service to God?

There are a number of things that should motivate us to serve. First of all should be obedience. Deuteronomy 13:4 says “Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.”  Scripture is filled with commands and exhortations to serve God.  If for no other reason, we serve because we have been commanded to serve.

We should also be motivated by gratitude.  1 Samuel 12:24 says, “Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.”   We should not be serving grudgingly out of some sense of duty or responsibility – as if we were forced to do something we did not wish to do.  Rather, when we see the great things God has done for us, we serve graciously and with thanks.

Likewise, we should be motivated to serve by gladness.  Psalm 100:2 says “Serve the Lord with gladness.”  Psalm 84:10 says “For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.”  Gladness and Gratitude are related topics.  Because of our gratitude, we can serve gladly.

We should be motivated to serve by forgiveness, and not by guilt.  In Isaiah 6:6-8 the prophet falls on his face as if dead before a Holy God.  When the angel cleanses his sin with the coal, Isaiah’s immediate response to God’s plea for a servant was: Here am I, send me!  We do not serve to be forgiven, but because we are forgiven we serve.

We should also be motivated by humility.  In John 13:12-16 Jesus demonstrates his humility by performing a service that was typically done by the lowliest of slaves – washing feet.  He then says in John 13:15, “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”  Paul then says in Philippians 2:3, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”  We cannot serve each other if we are prideful, but when we humble ourselves, it actually frees us to serve one another willingly and gladly.

Finally, we should be motivated by love.  Galatians 5:13 says, “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”  It was God’s great love for us that motivated Jesus to come to this earth to serve us and to die for us.  By that same token, our love for God and for others ought to motivate us to serve.


There are two more important facts we should know about service as well.  First, we are all gifted to serve.  Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 both speak of the gifts that have been given to the body of Christ.  The expectation – which is made very clear in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25) is that we are to use those gifts for the kingdom of God.  There is a common saying in the evangelical community:  Every member is a minister.  We are all part of the body of Christ and should be serving each other and God.  1 Peter 4:10 says “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

Finally, we must understand that our service is part of our sanctification.  Consider Paul’s words in Philippians 2.


Philippians 2:12-13 - Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.


In other words, we are sanctified when we serve.





Stewardship is the disciplined use of that which God has given to us.  Stewardship and Service are not unrelated.  Stewardship is critical to our spiritual growth because it grows our understanding of how – as it says in James 1:17 – every good and perfect gift is from God the Father.    Likewise, stewardship grows us in our understanding that God owns everything and that those things which he has given to us – including our lives – are to be used for His glory.  That understanding helps us be content with what we have and not covet what others have.  After all, none of it belongs to us to begin with.  As such, stewardship helps us be more effective in ministry with the things he has given us and so we are not so tempted to use them for our own indulgences.

When we think of stewardship, what we generally think about is money and the tithe.  Stewardship, however, is so much more than just money.  We are stewards of many things.  In fact, everything we have been given by God is essentially on loan to us as stewards.   Consider these…

We are stewards of our time.  Stewardship begins with our time and our talent.  Go back to a passage we read in the last section:


1 Peter 4:10 - As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.


God sees our obedient service to him using the gifts he has granted us as faithful stewardship.  Jesus made this same point in the parable of the talent in Matthew 25:14-30.  This parable seems like it is talking about money – and to a certain extent it is - but it is talking about the gifts and abilities that the Holy Spirit has given us so that we can serve God and serve others.

We are also stewards of the earth.  Genesis 2:15 says, “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” From the very beginning, we were placed in charge of the earth.  We are not to worship the earth or the things that are in it, but at the same time we are not to abuse it.  Rather, we are to take care of it.

We are stewards of the church, our family, and our children. We know that Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  But by definition, a pastor is a shepherd.  The word pastor actually means shepherd.  As pastors, we are all under-shepherds of the Good Shepherd. Our congregations are his flock, not ours. We have a responsibility to be a good steward of the church God has given us. But even if we are not a pastor, we have still been given stewardship over others. As a husband, you are a steward over your wife and family.  Ephesians 5 tells us that as husbands we are to help sanctify our wives so that they are presented holy and blameless to God.  Similarly, parents are stewards of our children, raising them correctly so that they come to a saving knowledge of Jesus at the earliest possible age.

Finally, we must not forget that we are stewards of our money. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6, Jesus tells us not to store up treasures here on earth, but to store up treasures in heaven – because where our treasure is, that is where our heart is.  Being a good steward of our money – spending it wisely and tithing like we are commanded – demonstrates that our treasure is in heaven and not on earth. Remember, though, that the giving of our money is not an occasion for making ourselves look good to others.  Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for this and told his disciples not to let the right hand know what the left hand was doing.  If you remember the purpose of this spiritual discipline is to help us grow in our understanding of what God has given us and to be grateful for that.  When we give for the purpose of bringing glory to ourselves, we just prove we have not learned that lesson.





Fasting is a discipline that some people practice regularly and other people practice hardly at all.  It is also a discipline that, like giving, can be done for the wrong reason. Fasting is simply denying ourselves of a particular necessity or pleasure for the purpose of focusing on God or growing closer to God.

There are a number of ways in which you can fast.  The most obvious, of course, is to abstain from food for some determined period of time.  This is also the most common form of fasting.  By going without food, we allow the hunger that we experience from not eating to create in us a hunger for God.  We use our hunger pains to direct our attention towards God.

We can also fast by abstain from a pleasure.  In a rich, indulgent country like the US, Christians sometime fast from some of their basic pleasures or from activities that distract them from focusing on God.  This may include things like television, social media, or perhaps certain luxury foods.  This may be helpful, but only if it serves the purpose of focusing our attention.  Ideally, the fast should be painful or a sacrifice so that it is missed enough to cause the person to redirect their attentions toward God.  In other words, it is only a fast if it is being used to draw us closer to God. 

The Bible does, however, place certain restrictions on fasting.  First of all, fasting should not be done publicly so that people look at us and think we are somehow more holy because we fast.  In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:16, Jesus condemned hypocrites who made a big, public spectacle of their fasting. Likewise, fasting should not be done to promote some kind of political agenda.  Fasting is not supposed to draw the attention of others to us or to our causes.  Rather, it is supposed to draw our attention to God.  A hunger strike, therefore, is not a spiritual fast.  Finally, fasting should not be a ritual.  Certainly some people fast regularly, and that is good so long as the fast does not become more important than the reason you are fasting.  The Pharisees in Jesus’ day fasted twice a week, but they had lost sight of why they were fasting and criticized others because they did not fast.  Other people choose only to fast on special occasions or when large decisions need to be made.  Either way, be sure that your fasting is not just a ritual that you perform out of habit that has no spiritual value.  If it seems like you are fasting just for the sake of fasting, then perhaps this discipline is not for you.

So how does fasting help us to grow closer to God?  This requires a deliberate effort on the part of the person performing the fast.  When we fast, we deny ourselves something that we want or need.  Ideally, when we think about the thing we are missing, we turn our focus and attention to God.  This is our choice.  We use the time to grow closer to him.  If we do not do that, our fast is not accomplishing its purpose.   

Likewise, we also use the fast to improve our prayer life.  Scripturally, fasting is almost always linked together with prayer so that you are praying and fasting at the same time.  Because of that, we can use the fast to help us make big decisions.  Fasting can be very useful in finding clarity when it comes to big life-changing decisions.  You may find that God speaks more clearly through the fast during those times.

One thing that is clear from scripture is that there is a time for fasting and a time for feasting.  In Mark 2, when the Pharisees asked Jesus why his disciples did not fast, Jesus replied that it was not appropriate to fast while he was with them, but that there would be a time for fasting after he left.  The point is that fasting is very important for your spiritual growth, but fasting just for the sake of fasting is of no benefit at all.



Silence and Solitude


Silence and solitude – or meditation – is one of those more interesting disciplines that you might not think you need as a Christian -  that is, until you actually stop long enough to try it.  Once you try it, you might find that you cannot survive without it.

Before we discuss Silence and Solitude, though, we need to differentiate the Christian Spiritual Discipline of Silence and Solitude from the Hindu (or any other similar religion) practice of Transcendental Meditation.  The two are not the same.  Unlike Transcendental Meditation, Silence and Solitude does not involve emptying our minds of ourselves in order to allow an outside controlling influence to take over our minds for the purpose of enlightenment.  Quite the opposite is true with Silence and Solitude.  With Silence and Solitude, we are actually trying to remove outside influences so that we can use our minds to focus on God.

Our lives can become so busy and, honestly, so LOUD.    In American culture, life has become extremely busy and extremely loud.  Your culture may be experiencing the same trends.  All of the technological advances that we have developed to supposedly make our lives easier have actually had the result of clouding our minds and cluttering our thoughts.  We are more connected to each other electronically than we have ever been, but with that connectivity come a constant barrage of input from every direction, including our phones, the radio, the internet, television, everywhere…

But the Psalmist in Psalm 46:10 has said – Be still and know that I am God.  How often do we actually just stop and do that?   How often do we slow down long enough to meditate on God?  Likewise, Psalm 37:7 says “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.”  Rest? Patience?  These are virtues that the rat-race of life sometimes prevents.  Every Christian needs time alone with God to just sit in silence to dwell on his goodness and rest in his peace.  This is the essence of Silence of Solitude.

Do you recall the story of how Elijah was hiding in the cave in 1 Kings 19?  God told him to stand in the mouth of the cave…


There was a great raging storm, but God was not in the storm…

There was a great earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake…

There was a great fire, but God was not in the fire…

God was in the whisper…


Elijah could not hear from God until he got became still and quiet before God.  There are a number of other scriptures that also speak to being silent before God…


Zephaniah 1:7 commands us to be silent before the LORD.

Isaiah 30:15 tells us that our strength is found in quietness and trust.

In Psalm 62, the psalmist says that he waits silently to hear from God.


However, the best way to see the advantages of Silence and Solitude is to examine the life of Jesus himself.  In Matthew 14, after hearing of the death of his cousin, John the Baptist, Jesus withdrew from the crowds to a desolate place to be by himself. Unfortunately, the crowds followed him and we get the story of the feeding of the 5000…  But then immediately afterwards, he went up into the mountains to be by himself and to pray. In Mark 6:21, after a time of intense ministry, Jesus told his disciples to come away to a quiet place to rest. In Luke 5, we are told how the crowds continually gathered to hear him and to be ministered by him, but that afterwards he would draw away to desolate places to pray. In Luke 6, we find that Jesus went out into the mountains to pray and that he prayed all night – and when he returned, he chose his 12 Apostles.  In Luke 9, when Jesus was transfigured and Moses and Elijah appeared with him, it was when he had gone up into the mountains to pray alone with Peter, James, and John.  In Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22 when Jesus was deeply sorrowful and troubled about the coming crucifixion, he wanted his disciples to stay and watch and pray with him, but he specifically requested that they stay in one place while he went to a place “about a stone’s throw away” to pray all by himself.

If Jesus needed silence and solitude, we probably need it as well.   From these events in Jesus’ life, we find three key points about silence and solitude.

First, the purpose of Silence and Solitude is to spend time with God.  We use the time to pray to God.  We use the time to hear from God.  And we use the time to draw close to God.  Certainly, a portion of the time may be to just rest quietly in the goodness and peace of God, but primarily we use the time to be alone with God in prayer – without the distractions of life.

Second, the location should be a desolate place.  It should be a place where no one will disturb you.  In Matthew 6:6, Jesus actually instructed us to go into our private rooms and shut the door when we pray.  This again is to ensure that we are alone with God without distractions.

Finally, silence and solitude is needed most during our most difficult times.  It is needed after a tragedy in our lives – such as when Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist.  It is needed after a difficult time of ministry – such as after Jesus had been ministering to the people for a long period of time.  It is needed before an important decision – such as when Jesus was choosing his twelve apostles.  And it is needed when we are in preparation of a time of known difficulty – such as when Jesus was preparing for his own death. 

There is actually one other thing we can notice about how Jesus implemented this discipline in his life.  If you have some very close friends that you can trust… If you can bring them with you to your desolate place… If you can trust them to be silent with you and not disturb you… Then there is clearly some benefit to your silence and solitude being done with a very small circle of close friends.

Historically, this discipline reached its peak at the height of the monastic movement. Silence and Solitude has always been a top priority spiritual discipline for monks.  Even today, it is an important part of monastic life.  However, the practice can be beneficial to all of us as Christians.  As Protestants, we do not put enough emphasis on Silence and Solitude to our own detriment.  There is great spiritual value in the practice.





The last discipline we will discuss is journaling.   Journaling is not something you will see commanded or spelled out in scripture.  Journaling is basically just keeping a diary.

Journaling is perhaps one of the most interesting disciplines from a historical perspective.  Even though there are no commands for it in scripture, almost all prominent historical Christians have kept journals.   If you think about it, it may very well be that the reason they are prominent is partly due to the fact that they kept journals. Through their journals, we have learned about their spiritual progress, their failures, their victories, and ultimately their spiritual wisdom.  Without their journals, we would not be able to learn from them.

Journaling is very often done in conjunction with other disciplines such as prayer, Silence and Solitude, bible reading, and even fasting.  As a spiritual discipline, there are a number of benefits to Journaling.  With journaling, you can monitor and watch your own spiritual progress.  By reviewing your journals periodically, you can see more clearly how you have grown.

With journaling, you can remember scriptural insights you have gained in your devotional time.  Many people journal while they read their Bible so that they can make notes whenever the Holy Spirit speaks to them.  Writing down those revelations helps solidify those revelations in our spirit.

Journaling can assist you in your meditations before the Lord.  Likewise it can help you help you in your prayers.  Some people actually journal their prayers, writing them down instead of just speaking them in their spirit.

Journaling can help you express your emotions to God.  During those times when you are having difficulty emotionally, writing down those feelings in a journal can be of great benefit.

Journaling also helps you remember the good things God has done for you.  As you write things down in the journal, whether it is praises, prayers, or insights God has given you, they become a permanent record of your spiritual growth.  As you review the journal from time to time, we are reminded of all the blessings that God has bestowed upon us over time.

Finally, journaling can benefit those who come after you.  Think of the many thousands or millions of Godly believers who lived over the course of history for which we know nothing.  The reason we know nothing is because there was nothing written down about them.   The knowledge and wisdom we have from the saints of old we only have because they wrote it all down – sometimes in journals.  Perhaps you think that your life is not meaningful enough for your struggles and victories to be remembered in this way.  Do not make such judgments.  Consider the legacy that you can leave with your children, grandchildren, and for generations to come.



Spiritual Disciplines in Closing


The whole point of the spiritual disciplines is to develop and execute a plan of intentional and deliberate spiritual growth.  If you do not have a plan to grow spiritually, you will not grow spiritually.  Spiritual growth comes only through our deliberate effort and the spiritual disciplines are an essential part of that deliberate effort.

  Experiment with all of the spiritual disciplines. Try all of the disciplines listed in these last two lessons – or perhaps even try different ones not listed here if you find ones that make sense to you.  Find the disciplines that work best for you.

When you have found the disciplines that work best for you, make a plan.   Be diligent and consistent in practicing those disciplines.  Then over time you will find that from discipline comes growth.