Title: Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth
Author: Richard Foster
When you think of Christian disciplines, what comes to mind?
For me, the first things I think of are prayer, Bible study, church attendance, as well as Scripture memorisation and a couple others.
But if a deeper dive into spiritual disciplines sounds appealing to you, I’d strongly recommend Richard Foster’s bestselling work, Celebration of Discipline. Many consider it to be one of the best books on Christian spirituality, with everyone from Madeleine L’Engle to Eugene Peterson to Dallas Willard having written about how much they appreciate this book.
The book’s main chapters, which each focus on one area of discipline, are all simply titled “The Celebration of [name of discipline]” (fasting, service, worship, etc.). Foster divides the disciplines into three categories: inward disciplines (that include meditation, prayer, fasting, study), outward disciplines (simplicity, solitude, submission, service), and corporate disciplines (confession, worship, guidance, celebration).
I found this book to be a horizon-expanding view of what it should look like to live a spiritually rich life. It’s full of great insights and advice on how to grow in the different spiritual disciplines — which is, of course, timely, given this time of year and the many New Year’s goals and resolutions coming just around the corner.
“Today, there is an abysmal ignorance of the most simple and practical aspects of nearly all the classic Spiritual Disciplines,” Foster writes (p. 3). Disciplines help us move from superficiality to spiritual depths, from hollowness to richness. We can’t cause ourselves to grow spiritually (only God can do that), but, like a responsible farmer, we must tend to our lives so that we are receptive and ready for the Holy Spirit to transform us (p. 7).
Disciplines help us move from superficiality to spiritual depths, from hollowness to richness
As an example, most of us probably know how to study, but in chapter five, Foster brilliantly fleshes out what effective studying actually looks like. It’s not just about reading or memorising. “Study involves four steps,” he says (pp. 64-67):
My favourite chapter of Celebration of Discipline is chapter six: “The Discipline of Simplicity”. Here, Foster reminds us that we live in a hurried and greedy world, but that “simplicity is freedom” (p.79). Though riches and abundance seem at first to protect us from anxiety, they in fact become the objects of our anxiety (p. 88). “We crave things we neither need nor enjoy. ‘We buy things we do not want to impress people we do not like’” (p. 80).
This idea of simplicity as a spiritual discipline encouraged and convicted me so much, including the below 10 principles Foster lays out as practical tips on how to be less dependent on worldly “mammon” (Proverbs 11:28, Luke 16:13) and enjoy a simpler, healthier Christian life (pp. 90-95):
All in all, Foster’s book encouraged me to think more broadly about Christian disciplines and how I can grow in those many areas he writes about. How much better will the new year be, I thought, if we could grow in maybe just 2-3 of these areas of spiritual discipline? What do you think?
Sin’s allure is strong, and the pressures of our broken world are great…O Christians, may we be disciplined in our walks and, through the Spirit’s help, “seek the things that are above” (Colossians 3:1) in the days and months ahead!
(Editor’s Note: You can download a free PDF of this book here.)
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