I knew this was coming and if you’ve been regularly reading these blogs so did you. Somewhere in a book on being united with Christ the author would have to talk about spiritual disciplines. The author uses the metaphor of drawing the sail to talk about the disciplines. I like that metaphor because it addresses my real need to remember that I’m not in control. The Holy Spirit is the wind that provides the power to move me. All I’m trying to do is catch the wind.
We are going to be looking at a handful of these disciplines, but it’s important to underscore that these means, by themselves, do not change us. God is the one who changes us. These means put us in the place where God can work within us. They are ordinary means God has provided for us to experience his extraordinary grace. They are means of drawing the sail. – Union with Christ by Rankin Wilbourne
I did struggle a while with the sailing metaphor and I’m sure that is because I’m not a sailor. I have been sailing twice and both times with my son. Sailing does not involve constant activity for the sailor. It is also not set it and forget it or totally passive. The wind increases and decreases and shifts direction. The wind isn’t the only thing that isn’t constant. The current in the water also changes. Spiritual disciplines are the habits and practices that enable me to utilize the power of the Holy Spirit to make spiritual movement in my life.
The disciplines the author chose to focus on are meditation, prayer, worship, and fellowship. Meditation is more than reading the Bible. In a way it is like marinating in God’s word. I have enjoyed reading through the Bible in a year, but it is easy to focus on getting the chapters read and forget to really hear what God is saying. This process of journaling is helping me to think more about what I’m reading.
The second discipline is prayer. This comment really struck me.
As Soren Kierkegaard put it, “This is our comfort because God answers every prayer, for either he gives what we pray for or something far better.” – Union with Christ by Rankin Wilbourne
Do you believe that? I do. I’m not always comfortable with what this means, but if I don’t believe this I don’t have a faith that will get me through the realities of life. I am confident that God is actively working for what is best for me. My constant prayer needs to be for the ability to sense God’s direction and choose to move with Him.
There are many more spiritual disciplines, including worship and fellowship. What if I practiced all of these perfectly? Would my life be characterized by continual spiritual growth? The simple answer is no. Everyone experiences times when the wind stops blowing.
But precisely because it is the real God you are seeking, by definition this means you must give up your right to control him. You can’t control the wind! You are utterly dependent on a power outside of you. Jesus says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). It’s a terrifying truth, but in order for it to become life giving to us, we have to be made aware, sometimes painfully so, that we can’t coerce or control God by our own frantic maneuvering. – Union with Christ by Rankin Wilbourne
There is a temptation when we enter the doldrums and there is no wind. I love reading novels about sailors and their ships. In many of these books there comes a time when the wind has stopped blowing and the ship is stuck. In almost every case the captain will send the men to the small boats and have them get out the oars to attempt to pull the boat. This never results in the ship reaching its destination. It does produce some very tired sailors. The authors never seem to deal with the possibility that all the rowing might be headed away from where the wind will appear. Since these are novels the wind always returns at just the last moment and carries the ship to its destination.
So, I do need to practice spiritual disciplines, but I also need to recognize that I’m doing them to grow in my relationship with God and not to try to convince God to do things my way.
Waiting on God is critical to knowing God (Ps. 130:5,6) because it teaches us that we are not God. – Union with Christ by Rankin Wilbourne