The Spirit of the Disciplines
This forms the second book of Willard’s trilogy and is best read after digesting Willard’s text Hearing God. We may tend to see “spiritual disciplines” as activities for super, extra-holy people or hermits holed up in monastries. Willard argues that disciplines are a means to bring us into right relation to the spiritual Kingdom of God. This right relations to the Kingdom nourishes our spirits leading to transformation. “A ‘spiritual life’ consists in that range of activities in which people cooperatively interact with God . . . ” (67). ” . . . there are certain practices–solitude, prayer, fasting, celebration, and so forth–we can undertake, in cooperation with grace, to raise the level of our lives toward godliness.” (69).
Why I liked this book:
- Willard addresses many of the wrong approaches to spiritual disciplines and offers correctives that allow us to use the spiritual disciplines as intended to lead to transformation of our thoughts, actions and words toward Christlikeness.
- Willard presents spiritual disciplines as a reasonable expression of the sanctification that God has begun to accomplish within us and will continue to accomplish through our lives.
- Willard offers hope of transformation toward Christlikeness in this life through the example of the apostle Peter; who although called “The Rock” acted more like “Shifting Sand.” One potent example is found in the Garden prior to Christ’s Crucifixion: Christ asked the disciples to watch and pray, but returns to find them sleeping. Rather than scolding the disciples, Jesus accurately describes the situation: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41.
This text is not for the faint-hearted. It is well worth the experience, and will reward the reader who returns to it frequently.