I take the love of God and self-denial to be the sum of all saving grace
and religion. I judge the measure of my own and all other men's true piety by
these two. And it is the rarity of these two, which assureth me of the rarity
of sincere godliness. Oh, how much selfishness and how little love of God are
too often found among those contenders for supposed true doctrine, true
worship, true discipline, and the true church. Who can say that their zeal for
these things doth eat up themselves, their charity, their peaceableness, and
How often do we hear about the discipline of the Christian life these days?
There was a time in the Christian church when this was at the very centre, and
it is, I profoundly believe, because of our neglect of this discipline that the
church is in her present position. Indeed, I see no hope whatsoever of any
true revival and reawakening until we return to it.
But as I understand from your letter, that it is not very long since the Lord
shed the light of His gospel on you, I could not give a fitter expression of my
love towards you, than by exhorting and encouraging you to daily exercises.
Why is it that you have failed in your attempts to significantly change? Why
is it that you rarely succeed even in your determination to change in small
ways? There must be something wrong. You want to do the right thing;
you so rarely achieve it. Of course, there may be many reasons for this. At
the bottom of it all is sin. But here let us single out one major reason
(perhaps the major reason) why the gears don't seem to mesh as they
should. What is the problem? You have sought and tried to obtain instant
godliness. There is no such thing. . . . Discipline is the secret of
godliness. You must learn to discipline yourself for the purpose of
A baseball player who expects to excel in the game without adequate exercise of
his body is no more ridiculous than the Christian who hopes to be able to act
in the manner of Christ when put to the test . . . . The star performer himself
didn't achieve his excellence by trying to behave in a certain way only
during the game. Instead, he chose an overall life of preparation of mind
and body. . . . The secret of Christ's easy yoke, then, is to learn from Christ
how to live our total lives, how to invest all our time and our energies of
mind and body as he did. We must learn to follow his preparations, the
disciplines for life in God's rule that enabled him to receive his Father's
constant and effective support while doing his will.
Our ordinary method of dealing with ingrained sin is to launch a frontal attack. We rely on willpower and determination. . . . But the struggle is all in vain, and we find ourselves once again morally bankrupt. Willpower will never succeed in dealing with the deeply ingrained habits of sin . . . By dint of will people can make a good showing for a time, but sooner or later there will come that unguarded moment when the "careless word" will slip out to reveal the true condition of the heart. If we are full of compassion, it will be revealed; if we are full of bitterness, that also will be revealed. . . . The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us. Richard Foster
Our age has been sadly deficient in what may be termed spiritual greatness. We
are too impatient to meditate on the faith we profess. . . . It is not the
busy skimming over religious books or the careless hastening through religious
duties which makes for a strong Christian faith. Rather, it is unhurried
meditation on the gospel truths and the exposing of our minds to these truths
that yield the fruit of a sanctified character.
If anything characterizes modern Protestantism, it is the absence of spiritual
disciplines or spiritual exercises. Yet such disciplines form the core of the
life of devotion. It is not an exaggeration to state that this is the lost
dimension in modern Protestantism.
If by this means [meditation], thou does not find an increase in all thy
graces, and do not grow beyond the stature of common Christians, and art not
made more serviceable in thy place, and more precious in the eyes of all
discerning persons; if thy soul enjoy not more communion with God, and thy life
be not fuller of comfort, and hast it not readier by thee at a dying hour; then
cast away these directions, and exclaim against me forever as a deceiver.
No Spiritual Discipline is more important than the intake of God's Word.
Nothing can substitute for it. There is simply no healthy Christian life apart
from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture. . . . However, many who yawn
with familiarity and nod in agreement to these statements spend no more time in
God's Word in an average day than do those with no Bible at all.
Though a man's heart be much indisposed to prayer, yet if he can but fall into
a meditation of God, and the things of God, his heart will soon come off to
prayer. . . . Begin with reading or hearing. Go on with meditation; end in
prayer. . . . Reading without meditation is unfruitful; meditation without
reading is hurtful; to meditate and to read without prayer upon both, is
Some are greatly affected when in company; but have nothing that bears any
manner of proportion to it in secret, in close meditation, prayer and
conversing with God when alone, and separated from the world. A true Christian
doubtless delights in religious fellowship and Christian conversation, and
finds much to affect his heart in it; but he also delights in times to retire
from all mankind, to converse with God in solitude. True religion disposes
persons to be much alone in solitary places for holy meditation and prayer.
If humility is the basic ingredient of true holiness, the soil in which the graces flourish, is it not needful that from time to time we should, like David, humble our souls with fasting? Behind many of our besetting sins and personal failures, behind the many ills that infect our church fellowships and clog the channels of Christian service -- the clash of personalities and temperaments, the strife, the division -- lies that insidious pride of the human heart.
How is it that fasting can help us here? . . . Fasting is a divine corrective
to the pride of the human heart. It is a discipline of body with a tendency to
humble the soul. "I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might
humble ourselves before our God," records Ezra (8:21).
But the Papists dream that fasting, in addition to its merit and worth, is also
by itself of much avail in the worship of God; . . . [Fasting] is not approved
by God, except for its end; it must be connected with something else, otherwise
it is a vain thing. Men by private fastings, prepare themselves for the
exercise of prayer, or they mortify their own flesh, or seek a remedy for some
Christ saith that when the bridegroom was taken from them, his disciples should
"fast" (Mk. 2:19,20). And even painful Paul was "in fasting often" (2 Cor.
6:5; 11:27), and "I discipline my body and bring it into subjection" (1 Cor.
9:27). And I am sure that the ancient Christians (Acts 5:30; 14:23; Lk. 2:37),
that lived in solitude, and ate many of them nothing, . . . did not find this
cure [fasting] too dear.