In Praise of Spiritual Disciplines

In Praise of Spiritual Disciplines

Author: Rev. Nikki Perrine Passante
October 20, 2020

Just this last week I took a week of study leave – a reading week. This accomplishes a number of things. It allows me to process all the conversations I’ve had, names I’ve tried to remember, and sit down with the details of people’s lives and actually absorb them. It allows me to sit with the Word without any incessant demands upon it to meet my needs or for it to produce a fantastic sermon.

In fact, when I take time off I often do nothing. Gladly.

As is obvious from the record of his own life, Jesus understood this fact well and lived accordingly. According to Dallas Willard in "The Secret of the Easy Yoke," because of our contemporary bias with which we read the Gospels, we miss the main emphases of his life. Being the Son of God did not relieve him of the necessity of a life of spiritual preparation. In spite of the auspicious events of his birth, he grew up in seclusion in a simple family. Even though he displayed other-worldly understanding in the temple at age 12, he still returned home with his parents and for the next 18 years was subject to the demands of his family. After being baptized by his cousin, Jesus was in solitude and fasted for a month and a half. As his ministry proceeded, he was alone much of the time, often spending the entire night in solitude and prayer before serving the needs of his disciples and hearers the following day. It was only through this life of such spiritual preparation that Jesus was able to lead a public life of service through teaching and healing. Here’s the deal – to live as Christ lives is to live as he did ALL his life, not just when we’re on the spot or in a foxhole.

We’re talking about Spiritual Disciplines here. And I know discipline sounds like a dirty word, but think about it. You can’t play a piano concerto if you at first haven’t mastered the scales. You can’t paint a masterpiece if you can’t distinguish between primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. If I’m going to run a marathon(which will NEVER happen; you will only catch me running if someone’s chasing me), I’m not going to run 26 miles on the first day – I’m going to have to train.  

We must do the same in our spiritual lives. It’s fascinating. We send our kids to school for approximately 180 days a year for 12 years before they graduate with a diploma. If we leverage that same framework onto Christian Education, by the time our young people reach adulthood they remain spiritual kindergarteners. I’m not sharing this so that anyone will feel bad; I’m sharing this with you so we can work with it.

Hear me, however - the Church does not need to pack its schedule to prove its relevancy. A more important point may be that YOU don’t have to pack your schedule to prove YOUR relevancy either. Your children don’t need their schedules packed to prove THEIR worth either!

In John chapter 6 the disciples have been looking for Jesus. Just the day before Jesus had fed five thousand people with just five barley loaves and two fish. When the disciples finally find him the next day (he had gone off to be by himself), they want to be miracle workers also, and they seize upon the verb “to work” and are anxious to involve themselves in this activity.

Then they say to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”

And Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him who He has sent.”

It’s that simple. Believe. We take ourselves too seriously. Maybe one of the best things we can do is back off. Take some time off. Stop. Watch God Work. Believe. 



First Presbyterian Church


20 King's Highway East, Haddonfield, NJ 08033
(856) 429-1960