Friday, December 18, 2015


What is the discipline of silence?
Either cutting down on over-wordiness or abstaining from speech entirely for a short period of time.

Why practice silence?
Richard Foster writes, “One reason we can hardly bear to remains silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others.” Have you ever noticed that we can only sit in silence when we are with loved ones who make us feel the most comfortable? We often speak because we are trying to justify ourselves or adjust the way someone else views us. It stems from insecurity or a showy arrogance. Thus, practicing silence does the following:
  • Increases clarity of God’s voice
  • Combats arrogance and a need for control
  • Removes self-justification and allows God to be our justifier
  • Teaches us to be listeners rather than talkers

What does the Bible say?
The discipline of silence applies to 1) our interactions with God and 2) our interactions with other people. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God,” and Lamentations 3:25–28 tells us, “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.  Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him.” Ecclesiastes 5:2 also says, “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” Therefore, we should learn to quiet ourselves before the Lord and hear what He has to say.

Silence should play a role in our conversations with others as well. James 3:1-12 outlines the power of the tongue, so we should use that power wisely. When we talk, we make ourselves the focal point of the conversation, but when we listen, we make the other person the focal point. This is the loving way to conduct conversations. Ecclesiastes 3:7 tells us that there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak,” so we should learn when speech is appropriate and when it is not. For example, speech used to boost our own status or popularity is never coming from a heart of humility. The Apostle Paul explains that he came to “preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Corinthians 1:17). Paul obviously spoke, be he didn’t over-speak. He didn’t rely on eloquence to convey his message, and he wasn’t haughty in his speech. He relied on the power of the cross.

How do I get started?
1. Find a place of where you can be completely alone ands it in complete silence. In our modern world, finding such a place may be difficult, but try to aim for as close to complete silence as you can. You may have more luck finding such silence early in the morning or later at night.
2. When you pray, quiet yourself before the Lord. Too often, we only talk at God and give no thought to listening. Quiet yourself before the Lord, look for vision, and record what He has to say.
3. Practice listening rather than talking. In your conversations with people, be intentional about listening to what they have to say and only speaking when necessary. Note how this affects your ability to show them love and compassion.
4. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Wait for the Holy Spirit to prompt you before you speak, and when you do speak, do so directly. Don’t say more than what needs to be said. Don’t fret over eloquence.

Some Precautions
Avoid extremism or dogmatism when it comes to silence. Speaking isn’t a sin. Jesus spoke all the time, but he also knew when to keep silent (Matthew 26:63). If Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for speech, then remaining silent when we should be speaking is just as problematic as speaking when we should remain silent.

I also wouldn’t recommend practicing total silence around other people. Ignoring people just to avoid talking isn’t very loving! Instead, practice this discipline around others by speaking less and listening more.


What is the discipline of solitude?
Going to a quiet place to be alone with God.

Why practice solitude?
Dallas Willard notes, “Locked into interaction with the human beings that make up our fallen world, it is all but impossible to grow in grace as one should.” Just as we would spend one-on-one time with any close friend, we must spend one-on-one time with God if we wish to be in relationship with Him and be more like Him. Going into the desert or the closet to be alone with God allows us to receive the fullness of His strength before once again facing the world. Solitude is therefore necessary for:
  • Deepening our intimacy with God
  • Separating us from social conformity
  • Revealing our deep soul issues
  • Increasing our ability to have compassion for others

What does the Bible say?
The Bible is full of people practicing the discipline of solitude. Just to name a few, Jacob (Genesis 32:24–32), Moses (Exodus 33:7, 11), and Elijah (1 Kings 19) all had profound encounters with God while they were in solitude. Perhaps the best exemplar for the practice of solitude, however, is Jesus Christ. The Gospels record Him withdrawing into solitude over and over again. Before beginning His ministry, He spent forty days alone in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11). He withdrew into solitude before selecting the twelve (Luke 6:12), after hearing of John the Baptist’s death (Matthew 14:13), and after feeding the five thousand (Matthew 14:23). Jesus is also recorded going to “a lonely place” in Mark 1:35, Mark 6:31, and Luke 5:16, among other verses. Clearly, solitude is a practice Jesus endorsed.

How do I get started?
1. Find little moments of solitude throughout the day. Take advantage of those first few minutes after you wake up or before you go to bed, those moments when you are walking to and from your car, or the time you spend sitting down for breakfast. Whenever they arise, be intentional about using little moments of solitude to commune with God.
2. Find your sanctuary. You need a place where you can be alone with God. It could be a room in your house, a closet, an empty church, or some place in nature.
3. Set aside a set period of time. Whether it’s five minutes, thirty minutes, or several hours, the key is to follow through with the amount of time you commit to God and to meet with Him regularly and routinely. You can also go on an occasional study retreat to spend a few days alone and in God’s Word. Richard Foster also recommends that four times a year you set aside several hours to pray over your goals for the next year and the next ten years in order to reorient your life.
4. Pair solitude with silence. The point of solitude is to get rid of distractions and hear God’s voice clearly, so pairing solitude with music or a noisy atmosphere generally isn’t ideal.
5. Pair solitude with the disciplines of prayer, meditation, or study. Once again, the point is to commune with God. Be intentional about listening to His voice and enjoying His presence.

Some Precautions

Don’t cut yourself off from community completely. God wants us to interact with the world around us (e.g. service, evangelism) and He wants us to be in relationship with one another. Many of the spiritual disciplines are meant to be practiced communally (e.g. confession, worship). Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “Let him who cannot be alone beware of community…Let him who is not in community beware of being alone…Each by itself has profound pitfalls and perils. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.” Time spent in solitude and time spent with others are both vital to the Christian life.


What is the spiritual discipline of simplicity?
Forgoing extravagance, showiness, and materialism in favor of plain living, be that in our clothing, our speech, or our possessions.

Why practice simplicity?
The discipline of simplicity is about focusing our hearts such that we seek God’s kingdom first. Our culture teaches us to worship two things above all else: 1) our own comfort and 2) how others see us. The discipline of simplicity combats that disordered worship by forcing us to give up the thing we’re worshiping. This leads to:
  • Fewer distractions from God
  • Increase in generosity
  • Improved ability to trust God for provision
  • Decreased anxiety and increased inner peace
What does the Bible say?
Nothing we own is ours; we are merely stewards. God reminds us of this in Leviticus 25:23 when he says, “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me.”

Materialism is idolatry. Psalm 62:10 tells us, “if riches increase, set not your heart on them,” and Jesus insists in Luke 16:13, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Throughout his ministry, Jesus speaks very negatively of wealth. In his beatitudes in Luke 6:20 he says,“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God,” and in Matthew 19:21 he tells a rich man, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” In Luke 12:16-21, Jesus tells a parable about a man who stores up his excess harvest in order to, “Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” This may seem wise to the capitalistically minded, but the parable concludes with God’s rebuke: “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” and Jesus warns, “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

The Apostle Paul also speaks against materialism. In 1 Timothy 6:9 he warns, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction,” and one of his qualifications for a deacon in 1 Timothy 3:3 is that he be “not a lover of money.”

God also promises that if we do not set our hearts on material things, not only will we stop feeling anxious about them, but God will provide for all our needs. Matthew 6:25-33 says, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

How do I get started?
1. Identify your addictions. Are you unable to leave the house without putting on makeup? Can you get through a day without checking social media? Do you always need to be the first to own the latest and greatest technology? Then you might want to try simplifying that area of your life.
2.  Cut back on excess. Are you buying those clothes because you need them or because you’re trying to impress someone? Submit your possessions and purchases to God and always stay in prayer in order to determine where your heart lies.
3.  Make a habit of giving. Your money, property, and possessions aren’t really yours. They’re God’s. Therefore, they should be open and accessible to other people. Make a habit of giving what you have to charities, churches, or even your friends. This will cultivate a heart of generosity.

Some Precautions
Beware falling into legalism. Idolizing a lack of possessions misses the point and is no better than idolizing the possessions themselves. Many Christians today fetishize poverty, but the goal of simplicity is not to force poverty upon yourself. The goal is to cultivate a heart that is unfettered by materialism, focused on God’s kingdom first, and generous towards others. Richard Foster warns, “Asceticism and simplicity are mutually incompatible…asceticism renounces possessions. Simplicity sets possessions in proper perspective.”