Daily Riches: The Potential Pointlessness of Spiritual Disciplines (James Hannay, Dallas Willard, John Ortberg)

“What is clear … is that a small number of [spiritual disciplines] are absolutely central to spiritual growth. They must form a part of the foundation of our whole-life plan for growth as apprentices of Jesus. These are, on the side of abstinence, solitude and silence….” Dallas Willard

“Asceticism (askêsis) means an exercise, and an exercise is an entirely useless and meaningless thing unless it is undertaken with a view to something to be gained by its use. When St. Paul speaks of “exercising” himself he says that he does so in order to have a conscience void of reproach. In exactly the same way the monks practiced exercise, asceticism (askêsis), not as if the things they did were in themselves good, but simply as a means to the attainment of that perfection which they desired. …Fastings, vigils, meditations on the Scriptures, self-denial, and the abnegation of all possessions are not perfection in themselves, but aids to perfection. The end of the science of holiness does not lie in these practices, but by means of them we arrive at the end. He will practice these exercises to no purpose who is contented with these as if they were the highest good. A man must not fix his heart simply on these, but must extend his efforts towards the attainment of his end. It is for the sake of the end that these things should be cultivated. It is a vain thing for a man to possess the implements of an art and to be ignorant of its purpose, for in it is all that is of any value.” James Hannay

“I discipline my body like an athlete,
training it to do what it should….”
1 Corinthians 9:27

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is there a sense in which you are training yourself so you can do “the right thing at the right time in the right way with the right spirit?” (Ortberg)
  • Do you have a “whole-life plan for growth”, or are you just drifting – leaving your development as a person of faith to chance? If you’re not working a plan, why not?
  • Do you realize the importance and value of some of the most praised spiritual practices (e.g., solitude, silence, self-denial, meditation on Scripture)? Do you realize how those same practices can be distractions or dangers – how they can be “useless and meaningless?”

Abba, help me train myself to be the person you created me to be.

For More: Wisdom of the Desert by James Hannay

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. Thanks!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

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