Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

01 August 2009

Words of Encouragement - Spiritual Disciplines

I have read Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes many times. In fact, I used to read it once a year and each year I would be affirmed and encouraged by certain chapters and receive a hearty rebuke from others. Each year the affirmation and the rebukes shifted around the different chapters as my circumstances changed.

"Spiritual disciplines" is a bit of a loaded phrase. It fills some with delight, it causes others to roll their eyes, it causes many to cross the line from grace to works and plunges the perfectionist and the legalist to despair. But this book is beautifully written – firmly founded in the grace of God, in the saving work of Christ and not in our own feeble attempts and endeavours. It is not about working our way to salvation. It is about seeing our relationship with God grow.

The following paragraph is from the first chapter and it is the first thing I have underlined in a book (except my Bible which is growing in underlinings with each passing day!) since I left university. For one whose primary love language is acts of service and who therefore often veers towards works and not grace and who could veer towards legalism if left to her own devices, I have found this framing of the spiritual disciplines powerfully helpful. To my fellow would be (or should I say, don't want to be) legalists, I hope you find these words an encouragement.

Many of us think of spiritual discipline in terms of 'living the letter of the Law' or as a series of draconian rules that no-one could possible live up to. Such legalism seems to us a path to frustration and spiritual death. But true discipline is a far cry from legalism – thank God! The difference lies in motivation: Legalism is self-centred; discipline is God-centred. The legalistic heart says, 'I will do this thing to gain merit with God.' The disciplined heart says, 'I will do this because I love God and I want to please Him.' The true heart of discipline is relationship – a relationship with God.

Whether you are a legalist or not, I highly recommend this whole book – if you are a woman. And if you are man lurking here (welcome!) Barbara's husband Kent has written the companion volume Disciplines of a Godly Man. And Disciplines of a Godly Family is also an excellent read. So something for everyone!!

Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes page 14