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Trade Paperback
192 pages
Jul 2003

Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed

by Donald S. Whitney

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Simplify Your Spiritual Life

Does your spiritual life sometimes seem more like a burden than a blessing? Does your spirituality seem to exhaust you as often as it refreshes you? Have your spiritual practices become "just another thing to do" in an already overcrowded, stress-filled schedule? If so, then you need to simplify your spiritual life.

We should expect part of true spirituality to exhaust us, for it exists not merely for our own edification, but to serve the glory and purposes of God. Jesus' spiritual labors occasionally so fatigued Him that He could remain asleep in an open boat in the middle of a lake during a life-threatening storm (see Luke 8:22-25). Likewise, the apostle Paul knew the depletion of inner resources that results from the willingness to "spend and be spent" for the sake of the souls of others (2 Corinthians 12:15). All aspects of externalized spirituality - serving people's needs, doing good works, taking the gospel to the spiritually lost, working in church ministries - expend the reserves of both body and soul.

There's a problem, though, when the inflow of spiritual renewal doesn't replenish the outflow of spiritual ministry. Our spiritual life should be the source of inner recreation and restoration because it is the way we most directly experience the Lord Himself in daily life. Through our spiritual disciplines (rightly motivated and practiced) come many of the most refreshing blessings of knowing Christ.

An example of how the spiritual disciplines can be an ongoing means of reinvigorating the soul is depicted in Psalm 1:2-3. Frequent meditation on (and not just reading of) God's Word so continually refreshes the mediator that "he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper."


However, as everything else in our lives becomes more complex, so can our spirituality. As one writer observed, "The pattern of over-involvement, clutter and busyness that is a part of our lives at home and at work will follow us into our spiritual lives unless we are vigilant." With increasing prosperity and technology come increasing opportunities and options - even in our spiritual practices - that weren't available a short time ago. For instance, instead of simply sitting in a comfortable chair by a sunny window with our Bible, journal, and pen, now we can

  • receive devotional readings sent daily by automatic email.
  • read the Bible in several of the many translations we possess, including those on our computer.
  • make journal entries on the computer by keyboard or voice-recognition software, inserting interesting graphics along with the text.
  • develop our devotional experience with worship-enhancing audio and/or video.
  • But it all needs to be done faster than ever before because of the strangling demands on our time.

The growing frustrations of hurry and complexity affect the practice not only of our personal spiritual disciplines, but also of our congregational spiritual disciplines (the ones we practice with other Christians). There's less time for church involvement than previously, and yet there are more church activities to choose from. We're so far behind in so many things that sometimes we wonder if what we receive from church is worth the overwhelming effort just to get there.

In some ways we're doing more than ever spiritually, but enjoying and profiting from it less. Many areas of our lives are productive and prosperous, yet we've never felt so spiritually withered. Our calendars are full, but our souls are empty.

The time has come to evaluate whether what we are doing in our spiritual lives is taking us where we want to go. There is hope. Read on.

Know the Good News of Christian Spirituality

Not only have most people on the planet never heard the good news of Christian spirituality, I am doubtful whether many churchgoers have even heard it clearly presented. And some who have heard it thousands of times are tentative when asked about it.

Christian spirituality begins with one of the most important words in the Bible. That word is gospel, which is the English translation of the New Testament Greek word that literally means "good news". But as essential as the gospel is to Christianity, I have often encountered an embarrassing silence whenever I have asked church groups, "What is the gospel?"

Let me ask you. Suppose you were going to write the gospel in a paragraph or so and send it to a friend in an email or letter. Could you do it? Confidently? Why would it be "good news?"

One of the places where the Bible summarizes the gospel is in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. The heart of this passage tells us that "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (verses 3-4). So the gospel that produces genuine Christian spirituality is that Jesus Christ died, taking the guilt of sinners and the wrath of God upon Himself, and was raised bodily from the dead to show that the Father accepted His death for others and removed their sins. Christ's substitutionary death for sinners is the measure of His love, and His resurrection from the dead is the stunning confirmation that all He said and did is true.

This is good news - the best possible news - because it demonstrates, among so many other things, the willingness of the God we had sinned against countless times to draw us to Himself, to engage in an intimate relationship with us. It means that He has done in Christ what we couldn't have done for ourselves, opening the door for us to come in faith and to experience all the indescribable riches of fellowship with God, and thereby become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4).

Do you know - by experience - this good news?

Excerpted from Simplify Your Spiritual Life by Donald S. Whitney.
NavPress, 2003. All rights reserved