Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Discipline

Discipline is a word that many shy away from today. I don't know the reason. Maybe because it has become synonymous with some forms of abuse, or maybe because it is associated with a kind of gruelling, soulless, mechanical and repetitious form of exercise which though necessary and 'good' for us, nevertheless sounds joyless and unpleasant. Whatever the reason the idea has so many negative connotations that people avoid it like the plague.

And yet it is inextricably connected to not only the word, but the concept of "discipleship". The disciples of Jesus were early apprentices who were willing to take on the various disciplines allocated to them by their Master, seeing in their practice a way of not only keeping close to their Lord but of experiencing His promises of life in all its fullness.

The disciplines included reading and meditating on the Scriptures, prayer, fasting etc. Thinking about the Scriptures in particular I have tried to maintain the discipline of reading through both Old and New Testaments once per year. Some years I have failed miserably and tried to justify my failure on the basis that I was either being too legalistic about the exercise or taking too much time getting through the process rather than homing in on the texts in more detail.  Although the latter reason is a legitimate concern and centring down on a text or even a word is necessary and even fundamental to getting to grips with what it is really saying or, better, what God is saying through it, there is still something very satisfying in covering the whole span of God's story and getting to grips with the total narrative rather than just bits of it.

I have found that despite the fact that large swathes of the Bible don't always register all of the time, the words do mysteriously 'lodge' in my mind - or deeper - and pop up in the most unexpected places and the most appropriate moments when I need them most. It is as if reading somehow consigns the text into an inner filing system only to be quickly sorted and accessed by the Holy Spirit at the right time.

And this is not the only benefit from reading the whole text through once a year. I find that reading brings me into contact with God  and draws me into His presence much like an intimate conversation engages two lovers and connects them at some deeper level. And even the discipline of taking the time to sit down and read becomes in and of itself, a kind of offering to God which says "this is important to me because these words are Yours."

So may I encourage anyone reading this blog to read the Scriptures and to make it a daily discipline, a holy habit, that will, over time and in unseen ways, deepn your relationship with God.

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