Spiritual training.

Many people don’t look to the new year. That’s fine. But some of us do. In the midst of all the planning and goal-setting we are doing for 2015, I’m thinking about spiritual goals. Or, perhaps more accurately, spiritual training.

The idea comes in part from John Ortberg (Living in Christ’s Presence, p139.)

“In relation to spiritual disciplines, the most helpful distinction is the difference between trying to do something and training to do something… If we decided to run a marathon, we would have to train…to train means to arrange our life around those practices that enable us to do what we cannot now do by direct effort. The point of training is to receive power, so we arrange our life around practices through which we get power.”

When he’s talking about power, it’s not so much mystical force as the simple strength or capacity to live more like Jesus. As Ortberg writes, “The disciplined person, the disciple, is someone who is able to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.

In teaching about this over the weekend, I suggested five questions to help us train spiritually.

  1. What does God want me to develop?
  2. What would maturity look like?
  3. What are the building blocks of the capacity we want to develop?
  4. What training plan would help develop those building blocks?
  5. What would tests/assessments of growth look like?

Here’s a quick illustration.

In Colossians 3, Paul says, “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” So how could I develop compassion (1)? One example is the Good Samaritan (2). He recognized a need, reoriented time and resources, responded to the need, and returned to make sure it really helped (3). We could start by spending every Monday in 2015 looking for needs (4). When we see one, we can practice responding (5).

That’s a start. Make sense? I’ll expand tomorrow.



7 thoughts on “Spiritual training.

  1. Gary Mintchell

    Thanks for these thoughts. I love Ortberg, who is also a disciple of Dallas Willard.

    A friend just put down spiritual disciplines thinking that they were just boxes to check on a list of works (rather than salvation by faith). These words add a dimension to my rebuttal.

    Another word that could be used in place of power would be energy. Disciplines, or practices, working toward a new way of being actually give you more energy for the trip. Lack of these actually lead to a decline of energy level and a psychological feeling of listlessness (one of the things John Climacus warns about in “The Ladder of Divine Ascent.”


  2. josephruizjr

    Very helpful John and Gary, I am in the process of reflecting on 2014 and planning for 2015 in a new way (I am actually planning!) Appreciate the questions and the insight. Yesterday our pastor asked us to think about one thing we want to leave behind in 2014? I am beginning to see some patterns. I am looking forward to tomorrow’s post.


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