[sacred space provides a break for the norm]
“The disciplines are those activities of mind and body, purposely undertaken to bring personality and one’s total being into effective cooperation with the Spirit of God so as to reflect Kingdom life.”
—Rev. John Field
Spiritual disciplines need to be removed from the category of historical curiosities and distortions and placed on a leader’s personal agenda. When seen in their proper perspective, spiritual disciplines are means by which a leader opens himself to a greater work of God’s grace.
Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, organizes some of the key disciplines into two main groupings.
1. Disciplines of Abstinence —Those activities that a believer chooses to do without. “In the discipline of abstinence, we abstain to some degree and for some time from the satisfaction of what we generally regard as normal and legitimate desires.” —Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, p. 159
Examples of disciplines of abstinence: silence, fasting, chastity, frugality and sacrifice.
2. Disciplines of Engagement—Those activities that a believer deliberately chooses to do. “A proper abstinence actually breaks the hold of improper engagements so that the soul can be properly engaged in and by God” —Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, p. 176
Examples of disciplines of engagement: study, prayer, worship and celebration, submission and servanthood.
When considering the subject of spiritual disciplines, leaders acknowledge the need for them, but often feel so overwhelmed that they set them aside for another day. The following describe key spiritual disciplines worthy of thought and greater consideration.
The Disciplines of Abstinence
Abstinence is a word that has been lost to past. Could it be that some words that have been lost and judge to be out-dated, need to be found again? Review each of these disciplines in light of ways abstinence might have value, and brought back into use in your personal development as a leader.
Closing yourself off from the noise of the world. Usually done in conjunction with solitude. Turn off the radio, TV and telephone and just listen to God in quietness. The practice of not speaking. Reading or meditating on Scripture is encouraged (Lamentations 3:25–28; Isaiah 30:15).
Abstaining from food in some significant way. Some have gone for long periods of time on limited or selective food intake (Daniel and his friends). Others go completely without food. Fasting narrows our focus and heightens our dependency on God (Acts 13:2, Luke 5:33–35).
Purposefully choosing to turn away from dwelling on or engaging in the sexual dimension of our lives. For those who are married, it would mean refraining from sexual intercourse. It must be a mutual agreement, only for a relatively short period of time and only in the context of continuing a loving, positive involvement with your spouse. Never should this be done out of frustration or anger (1 Corinthians 7:5).
Abstaining from using money or goods that are at our disposal in ways that merely gratify our desires or our hunger for status, glamour or luxury. Staying within bounds of good judgment (1 Timothy 6:6–10; Philippians 4:11–13).
Forsaking the security of meeting our needs, which we normally feel we deserved, in order to abandon ourselves more to God. Whether it be money, time, status or effort, we give it away gladly, in pursuit of God (Luke 21:2–4; 2 Corinthians 8:1–5).