February 12, 2014

Spiritual Disciplines: Simplicity

The first four disciplines Richard Foster discusses in his book Celebration of Discipline, he puts in the subsection, "The Inward Disciplines."  Those are the four with which I began this series: meditation, prayer, fasting and study.  Today we move into the next subsection, "The Outward Disciplines."  These include simplicity, solitude, submission, and service.  We'll begin with simplicity.

I found reading through the chapter convicting and liberating.  Conviction came from realizing how complicated I make my life, by failing to entrust it to the Lord by resting in His promises and pursuing His purposes.  Liberation came in realizing that I need not remain in bondage, but can be set free by trusting the Lord, resting in His promises, and pursuing His purposes.

The theme verse for the discipline of simplicity is Matthew 6:33.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

In that section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is addressing why God's children should not worry and what we should do instead.  The alternative to worry is focusing on God - His kingdom and His righteousness - letting Him "worry" about the rest, e.g what you will eat and wear.

The world is full of troubles for us, isn't it?  We are bombarded with decisions and distractions.  There are times my head and heart have almost exploded out of my body when I've been so consumed by the concerns, fears, doubts and confusion this world so readily offers.  Happened just last week, in fact.  Oh, and yesterday, too!

The temptation, then, is to leave the world behind.  Get rid of all unnecessary stuff, close my Facebook account, don't watch the news, and simply tend to the tasks that come my way.  That sounds so freeing, but Foster reminds us that simplicity is not asceticism; Simplicity is an outward expression of an inward reality.  The inward reality is a quiet, consistent trust in God that sets our hearts free.  Foster also offers that true Simplicity is only thing that reorients our lives so that our possessions can be genuinely enjoyed without destroying us. (p 84)  Simplicity will likely result in eliminating some distractions and getting rid of some things, but first it is a reorientation of the attitude of our hearts.

I'm guessing your heart is like mine.  You either love your possessions too much or you despise and cruse them.  Whether it's the former or the latter, our stuff is in God's place in our lives.  So we all have room to grow!

However don't want to pursue Simplicity for Simplicity's sake.  We want to practice the discipline of Simplicity to draw near to God!  We need to seek the Lord, asking Him to 
  • change the attitude of our hearts such that we praise and thank Him for all He as provided,
  • give us generous hearts, willing to share all that He has given to us, and
  • instill in us "single-mindedness" for His kingdom and righteousness, trusting in His protection and provision for us, not our own.
God is able to change our hearts!

So this week, let's think about applying seek first His kingdom and His righteousness to various areas of our life!

Here's an example from my life.  God provided us with this wonderful new home and more than enough stuff to go in it, but I am often overwhelmed by the messes we make and spend far more time complaining and grumbling than rejoicing, giving thanks,and thinking about how we can use our house to God's glory.  I need to think about how can I seek first God's kingdom and righteousness as I care for our home and in how I use it?

What about other areas of life: work, church, relationships?  We will begin to grow in Simplicity as we practice saying, "Lord, how can I seek first your kingdom and righteousness here?  I am worried about how sharing my time or things could detrimentally effect me.  Change my heart, fill me with thanksgiving and a spirit of generosity.  Set me free to run in Your way with no regrets."

Simplicity is a discipline of freedom,
the freedom to trust God because He is trustworthy and the provider.

Go forth and be more free in Him today than you were yesterday, friends!

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