“The Fullness of Joy, Solitude, Silence & Life in Christ” from Dallas Willard (Soul Care, Spiritual Disciplines, Presence of God)

Opening to the Fullness of Joy

Personal soul care also requires attending to our feelings. Emotions are a real component of life and of our lives in Christ. Some ministers allow their emotions to defeat them.

We do well to note, however, that love is the foundation of the spiritual life and joy is a key component in the Christ life. Joy is not pleasure, a mere sensation, but a pervasive and constant sense of well-being. Hope in the goodness of God is joy’s indispensable support.

In a moment of worship and praise, Paul spontaneously expressed a benediction on the Christians in Rome: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13, NASB). This verse addresses the profound needs of the emotional side of the Christian’s life.

The great central terms of life in Christ are “faith,” “hope,” “love,” and “peace.” These are not just feelings; in substance, they are not feelings.

They are conditions involving every part of an individual’s life, including the body and the social context. They serve to equip us for the engagements of life. They do, however, have feelings that accompany them, and these positive feelings abundantly characterize those living in the presence of God. These feelings displace the bitter and angry feelings, that characterize life “in the flesh”—life in human energies only. They even transform the sickening emotional tones that permeate and largely govern the world around us—even many times the Church world.

Jesus taught us to abide in God’s love “that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15: 10-11, NASB). Our joy is full when there is no room for more. Abiding in God’s love provides the unshakable source of joy, which is in turn the source of peace. All is based in the reality of God’s grace and goodness.

Faith, hope, love, joy, and peacethe “magnificent five”—are inseparable from one another and reciprocally support each other. Try to imagine any one without the others!

Solitude and Silence


Among the practices that can help us attend to soul care at a basic level are solitude and silence. We practice these by finding ways to be alone and away from talk and noise. We rest, we observe, we “smell the roses”—dare we say it?—we do nothing.

This discipline can be used of God as a means of grace. In it we may even find another reminder of grace—that we are saved, justified by His redeeming power—not by our strivings and achievements.

In drawing aside for lengthy periods of time, we seek to rid ourselves of the “corrosion” of soul that accrues from constant interaction with others and the world around us. In this place of quiet communion, we discover again that we do have souls, that we indeed have inner beings to be nurtured. Then we begin to experience again the presence of God in the inner sanctuary, speaking to and interacting with us. We understand anew that God will not compete for our attention. We must arrange time for our communion with Him as we draw aside in solitude and silence.

The psalmist said, “Cease striving and know that I am God” (Ps. 46: 10, NASB). And immediately following this, the writer affirms the success of God’s mission on earth: “’I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold” (vv. 10-11, NASB).

Other translations of this verse read, “Be still, and know” (NIV) or “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me” (TM). God’s provision for us and for His work through us is adequate. We do not have to “make it happen.” We must stop shouldering the burdens of “outcomes.” These are safely in His hands. Someone insightfully said, “The greatest threat to devotion to Christ is service for Christ.”

What a paradox! This is so easily a challenge for many ministers. Allowing service for Christ to steal our devotion to Him is a radical failure in personal soul care. But it is one from which the practice of communing with Christ in times of solitude and silence can deliver us.

Time is made not found.

A response to giving attention to personal soul care often is, “I don’t have time for extensive solitude and silence. I have too much to do.” The truth is you don’t have time not to practice solitude and silence. No time is more profitably spent than that used to heighten the quality of an intimate walk with God. If we think otherwise, we have been badly educated. The real question is, “Will we take time to do what is necessary for an abundant life and an abundant ministry, or will we try to ‘get by’ without it?”

So a couple of words of counsel are appropriate for our attending to the inner life. First, God never gives anyone too much to do. We do that to ourselves or allow others to do it to us. We may be showing our lack of confidence in God’s power and goodness, though it may be that our models and education have failed us.

Second, the exercise of God’s power in ministry never, by itself, amends character, and it rarely makes up for our own foolishness. God’s power can be actively and wisely sought and received by us only as we seek to grow by grace into Christlikeness.

Power with Christlike character is God’s unbeatable combination of triumphant life in the kingdom of God on earth and forever. Power without Christ’s character gives us our modern-day Sampsons and Sauls.

Knowing Christ through times away in solitude and silence will “let our joy be full” (see John 16:24). It will bring over us a pervasive sense of well-being, no matter what is happening around us. Hurry and the loneliness of leadership will be eliminated. We can allow the peace of God to sink deeply into our lives and extend through our relationships to others (see Matt. 10:12-13).

A young Christian who had been guided into the effective practice of solitude and silence had this to say:

The more I practice this discipline, the more I appreciate the strength of silence. The less I become skeptical and judgmental, the more I learn to accept the things I didn’t like about others, and the more I accept them as uniquely created in the image of God. The less I talk, the fuller are words spoken at an appropriate time. The more I value others, the more I serve them in small ways, and the more I enjoy and celebrate my life. The more I celebrate, the more I realize that God has been giving me wonderful things in my life, and the less I worry about my future. I will accept and enjoy what God is continuously giving to me. I think I am beginning to really enjoy God.4

Experiencing God through the practice of connecting with Him via this discipline brings rich rewards.

Planning for Fullness of Life


Our discussion so far has been more illustrative than expository. Solitude and silence are absolutely basic in our responsibility to soul care. But they also open before us the whole area of disciplines for the spiritual life. It is vital for us to keep before us that there are tried and true ways we can pursue toward abundant life in Christ. These ways are often referred to as “spiritual disciplines.”5 We can and must incorporate these into our lives as completely reliable ways of personal soul care. There is no substitute for this.

A person could make a long list of such disciplines, drawing on the history of Christ’s people. The list would certainly include fasting, which when rightly practiced has incredible power for the transformation of character and for ministry. On this list would also be such practices as frugality, service, celebration, prayer (as a discipline), journaling, fellowship, accountability relationships, submission, confession, and many others.

There is no such thing as a complete list of the disciplines. Any activity that is in our power and enables us to achieve by grace what we cannot achieve by direct effort is a discipline of the spiritual life.6

As we seek to know Christ by incorporating appropriate disciplines into our lives, we must keep in mind that they are not ways of earning merit. They also are not paths of suffering or self-torment. They are not heroic. They are not righteousness, but they are wisdom.

Once we team that grace is not opposed to effort (action)—though it is opposed to earning (attitude)—the way is open for us to “work out” all that is involved in our salvation, not only “with fear and trembling” but also with the calm assurance that it is God who is at work in us to accomplish all of His goodwill (see Phil. 2:12-13, NASB).

When we have settled into a life of sensible disciplines with our ever-present Teacher, then Peter’s admonition (2 Pet. 1:5-7) to add virtue to our faith, knowledge or understanding to our virtue, self-control to our knowledge, patience to our self-control, godliness to our patience, brotherly kindness to our godliness, and divine love (agape) to our brotherly kindness will prove to be a sensible plan for life. God will use this course of action to help others through our ministries as well.

“As long as you practice these things,” Peter continues (v. 10, NASB), “you will never stumble.” In our walk with God in Christ there will be provided to us, from “His riches in glory” (see Phil. 4:19, NASB), sweetness and strength of character, profundity of insight and understanding, and abundance of power to manifest the glory of God in life and in ministry—no matter the circumstances! And “entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (2 Pet. 1: 11)

Dallas Willard

dwillard.org

Notes

  • For development of this point see my Renovation of the Heart, especially chapter 2 (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002). 
  • For some illustrations of how this works, see Frank Laubach, “Letters of a Modern Mystic” and “Game with Minutes,” in Frank C. Laubach: Man of Prayer (Syracuse, N.Y.: Laubach Literacy International, “New Readers Press,” 1990). 
  • Thomas Watson, All Things for Good (1663; reprint, Carlisle, Penn.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1986), 74. 
  • Quoted from Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988), 165. 
  • For further discussion see Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1978), as well as his Streams of Living Water (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998). See also Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines.
  • See Foster, Celebration of Discipline, as well as Chapter 9 of my The Spirit of the Disciplines, for ways of listing and classifying many of the disciplines and for discussions of any particular ones. 

“Blessings Will Run After Us” Deuteronomy 28:1-2 commentary by David Guzik, notes with L.Willows

Blessings for Obedience

And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 28:1-2

The promise of God in Deuteronomy 28:1-2 offers many powerful insights that we can learn from when we listen with our hearts and open ourselves to applying the wisdom of its mighty blessing to our lives with obedience. The following commentary by David Guzik is a lead to deeper understanding. L.Willows

Blessings on obedience, Commentary by David Guzik Blue Letter Bible / David Guzik Study Guide

1. (Deu 28:1-2) Overtaken by blessing.

Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God:

a. If you diligently obey the voice of the LORD: The word “if” looms large. In this chapter, Moses exhorted the nation with choice. The covenant God made with Israel contained three major features: The law, the sacrifice, and the choice.

i. The idea behind the choice is that God was determined to reveal Himself to the world through Israel. He would do this either by making them so blessed that the world would know only God could have blessed them so; or by making them so cursed that only God could have cursed them and cause them to still survive. The choice was up to Israel.

In our own lives, we are subject to the same ‘reveal’ of God. We, both as individuals and collectives find times and seasons of apparent fullness and lack, opportunity and trial- that it can seem that we are very blessed or not at all. Somehow, there seems to be a choice that is up to us, something or someone is ‘knocking at the door’ with a message and a reason for our survival. Our Creator wishes to make Himself known to us.

ii. As a literary form, this chapter is similar to ancient treaties between a king and his people; this is God the King, making a covenant with His people, Israel.

iii. “In the ancient Near East it was customary for legal treaties to conclude with passages containing blessings upon those who observed the enactments, and curses upon those who did not.” (Harrrison)

All of God’s Promises (legal treaties) which were a covenant with His people ended with a blessing. We often do not realize or understand that there is an unspoken ‘opposite’ action for not obeying the treaties. What are the results of disobedience to the laws (commands in the old and new testament) of God? How do we try to avoid facing the truth of our status in spiritual obedience. Do we try to build status elsewhere?

b. That the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth: Therefore, if Israel would obey the LORD, He would set them high above all nations of the earth, and the blessings would be so powerful that they would come upon you and overtake you. They wouldn’t be able to escape the blessings.

Obedience

The message inherent in The Promise of God is that when we obey His command to put Him first (to set Him high, above all other things in our lives and treasure Him as our first cause, our Creator) then the blessings in our lives will become so powerful that they will overtake us.

Sacrifice and Choice

The lesson given as The Law, The Sacrifice and The Choice continues to guide us in our everyday lives. God’s law defines what must rule and be obeyed. We can recall that there was a great “If” in the lesson and on the journey. We have choice. In obedience we make sacrifices and form covenants according to God’s law.

Blessings

God’s blessings run after us according to his promises. He reaches to every people and nation throughout the earth. We are called to listen and obey. The blessings of his love and salvation run after us in relentless pursuit. L.Willows

“Insights from The Spirit of The Disciplines from Dallas Willard”, Introduction from L.Willows (Power of the Spirit, Discipleship)

Insights From The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard

Dallas Willard teaches that discipline works by indirection. A discipline is something we can do that enables us to do what we haven’t yet been able to do by our own direct effort. We train and enlist a new skill using a power greater than our own. In the disciplines we use the Spirit of God that raised Jesus Christ, to lift us to greater ability.

More importantly, he emphasizes that the greatest asset to discipline is a joyful attitude! Imagine that your heart is smiling through it. Your most true part longs to be where this is leading you. We are encouraged to connect to the perspective of love and joy. Why are you drawn to the disciplines? Because you love God and desire the intimacy of Spirit filled-living. It is a loving reunion with the One that has always been faithful to you. We fill ourselves with the goodness that has always been There. Our own hearts and lives need the disciplines, or the chance to develop new perspectives and patterns of seeing and living so that we experience intimacy with God and walk in His Spirit.

Discipline also works when developing new habits of body, mind, and heart. In daily living, we are faced with a multitude of choices at every turn. Developing a new habit means opposing a force that has “learned” to cope with these choices in one way and formed a set response.

A discipline asks that the pattern is broken. It asks that we “wake” from the habitual way of living long enough to purify and permit a new “aspect or perspective” to be born in its place. This will be by the power of Spirit, led by God. We joyfully walk in the discipline praying that we will re-form, emptied of what was needed to be left behind,  forward renewed by The Spirit of God. We pray that our new perspective bears the fruit of Spirit-directed living.

Here are some main disciplines of abstinence and engagement that have been helpful to Christ-followers over the centuries as offered by Dallas Willard.

This Spiritual Disciplines List features some main disciplines for life in Christ with concise definitions for each. You will notice disciplines of abstinence and disciplines of engagement.

Disciplines of Abstinence (Self-Denial)
These are ways of denying ourselves something we want or need in order to make space to focus on and connect with God.

Solitude: Refraining from interacting with other people in order to be alone with God and be found by him. (Solitude is completed by silence.)

Silence: Not speaking in a quiet place in order to quiet our minds and whole self and attend to God’s presence. Also, not speaking so that we can listen to others and bless them.

Fasting: Going without food (or something else like media) for a period of intensive prayer — the fast may be complete or partial.

Sabbath: Doing no work to rest in God’s person and provision; praying and playing with God and others. (God designed this for one day a week. We can practice it for shorter periods too.)

Secrecy: Not making our good deeds or qualities known to let God or others receive attention and to find our sufficiency in God alone (e.g., see Matthew 6).

Submission: Not asserting ourselves in order to come under the authority, wisdom, and power of Jesus Christ as our Lord, King, and Master. (If you think of this as submitting to a person as unto Christ then it’s a discipline of engagement.)

Disciplines of Engagement (Christ in Community)
These are ways of connecting with God and other people, conversing honestly with them in order to love and be loved.

Bible Reading: Trusting the Holy Spirit-inspired words of Scripture as our guide, wisdom, and strength for life. (Related disciplines include Bible study, Scripture meditation, and praying God’s Word.)

Worship: Praising God’s greatness, goodness, and beauty in words, music, ritual, or silence. (We can worship God privately or in community.)

Prayer: Conversing with God about what we’re experiencing and doing together. (As we see in the Lord’s Prayer the main thing we do in prayer is to make requests or intercessions to our Father for one another.)

Soul Friendship: Engaging fellow disciples of Jesus in prayerful conversation or other spiritual practices. (Related spiritual disciplines or practices include small groups, spiritual direction, and mentoring relationships.)

Personal Reflection: Paying attention to our inner self in order to grow in love for God, others, and self. (The Psalms in the Bible model this.)

Service: Humbly serving God by overflowing with his love and compassion to others, especially those in need. (Also tithing and giving.)

Dallas Willard – Wikipedia