To be a Christian is to be like Christ. But to be like Christ is deceptively difficult, and yet, remarkably simple. It is not a simple matter of wearing a WWJD bracelet and asking oneself at every turn of the day, “What would Jesus do?”
When a young boy aspires to grow up and be just like his favorite baseball player, he may begin by playing the game exactly as his hero does, even copying his speech, his behavior, his mannerisms, his stance at the plate. But that is not nearly enough. To really be like his hero, he must make the total life commitment to prepare himself, to discipline himself, in the very same ways as his hero.
Discipline is at the heart of many groaningly difficult areas of life: getting control of our weight; getting out of debt; keeping our hearts and bodies strong and healthy. The Christian faith is no different, but there is a wonderful promise attached to the hard work of walking with Christ:
Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light. —Matthew 11:29,30, NLT (Jesus speaking)
I’ve written about this paradox in To Sleep, Perchance to Dream. Following Jesus means putting on a yoke and sweating beside him; but in doing so, we discover the rest that we have been seeking all of our lives.
Jesus himself, God incarnate, prepared himself for the life God planned for him by practicing the disciplines of daily prayer, meditation, fasting, silence, solitude, serving others and celebration. Dallas Willard believes that these are the keys to experiencing that “perfect yoke,” “light burden” and “rest” that Jesus freely offers every one of us.
The Spirit of the Disciplines is about discovering the heart of Christianity. It’s a book that may change your life.