Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, I’ll post my thoughts here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2019. The schedule is online.
Celebration of Discipline — Introduction and Chapter One
Remember that we’re saving the preface and foreword for later. For now we’re just reading the introduction and the first chapter.
Chapter One — The Spiritual Disciplines: Door To Liberation
“Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”page 1
BOOM! What a start to a book. Foster wrote those words over 40 years ago and the problem has only intensified. Our society has collectively become the thorny soil in Matthew 13:22 — the worries of this world choke out the work of the Spirit within us.
The solution, Foster says, is to cultivate a pattern of living that breeds depth. Things like prayer and fasting and confession are like a firmware update for our souls.
The problem is that we’re not sure how to do these things. This book is meant to be a how-to manual to help us emulate the disciplined lifestyles portrayed in the Bible.
The disciplines Foster emphasizes are vital because without them we have only willpower to rely upon, and willpower doesn’t work as well as we hope.
Willpower will never succeed in dealing with the deeply ingrained habits of sin. Emmet Fox writes, “As soon as you resist mentally any undesirable or unwanted circumstance, you thereby endow it with more power–power which it will use against you, and you will have depleted your own resources to that exact same extent.”page 5
With the disciplines we are training, without them we are only trying. Training trumps trying.
This gets close to the thesis underlying the entire book — the formation of habits like fasting and prayer bear fruit in a way that willpower does not. As Foster observes:
“A farmer is helpless to grow grain; all he can do is provide the right conditions for the growing of grain. He cultivates the ground, he plants the seed, he waters the plants, and then the natural forces of the earth take over, and up comes the grain. This is the way it is with the Spiritual Disciplines—they are a way of sowing to the Spirit. The Disciplines are God’s way of getting us into the ground; they put us where he can work within us and transform us. By themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done. They are God’s means of grace.”page 7
Next week we begin getting practical as we study the discipline of Christian meditation. I hope you’re excited!
UPDATE: I didn’t include any excerpts from the introduction but I highly recommend reading it and especially focusing on the key role laypeople played in mentoring this pastor. Assuming your call is to the marketplace or academia, make it your ambition to grow into a Christian layperson mature enough to disciple a pastor. How awesome would that be?