[Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series on the Spiritual Disciplines.]
Let’s talk briefly about the motivation for engaging in the Spiritual Disciplines.
Why engage in these practices? What do they promise or offer?
Donald Whitney (2014) begins his book with this reminder: “Discipline without direction is drudgery” (p. 1). He gives the illustration of a kid practicing guitar. Whitney pictures this kid stuck in the monotony of practice. But then this kid is shown the image of a rockstar guitarist thrashing away at the guitar on stage. He’s amazed, and then he realizes this will be him at the other end of practicing. That vision instantly transforms his practicing.
With this illustration, Witney reminds us practice for practice’s sake is terribly boring, but when we see how it contributes to the future, it comes alive with hope and expectation, and so it is with the spiritual disciplines. Thus, starting with the promise of the disciplines is a very fitting way to start. We want to start with the end in mind.
So, what is the promise of the disciplines? Why do we do them? Why would we even consider them? What is the end or goal of their use? Answer: Growth in Godliness.
Growth in Godliness
First and foremost is the promise of growth in godliness. We can become more like God. Consider 1 Timothy 4:7-8: “ Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;  for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” We observe two things here. One, it is possible to train yourself for godliness. It is possible to work at it and grow in it. We will revisit this point later, but it is worth noting now. Two, godliness is of “value in every way.” How so? Godliness blesses your “present life,” and it reaps benefits and rewards in “the life to come.” How is godliness a blessing in these areas? Let’s consider what scripture says…
Growing in godliness means growing in our knowledge and experience of God.
- Hebrews 12:14 “ Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” So, we see holiness is connected to seeing God. I don’t mean literally laying eyes on him in this life, but we mean knowing him and experiencing him. And again, here, we see that it is possible to grow in this; we are to strive for holiness that helps us see in God.
- 2 Peter 1:3–4 “ His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,  by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” Here we see that to grow in godliness is to grow in partaking in God.
- 1 John 2:4–6 – “ Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,  but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:  whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” Knowing him leads to keeping his commandments, and keeping his commandments leads to knowing him.
- That growing in godliness means growing in our knowledge of God is also just common sense. If I started walking in your ways, if I started following you around everyday, going where you go, doing what you do, stepping where you step, in mimicking you, I would start to have a very strong, clear, experiential knowledge of you. And so as we grow in godliness, we are growing in our mimickry of God, and thereby we are growing in our experiential knowledge of Him. The more you try to think like God, the more you think like God and the more you then know God.
- In contrast, we know it is possible to quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19) and to grieve the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). In both cases, we do not mean gaining or losing your salvation. We mean your day-to-day experience of God.
Growing in godliness means growing in fruitfulness and effectiveness.
- John 15:5 – “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” This verse could go in the above category, too, because fruitfulness here doesn’t just mean “ministry effectiveness.” It means fruitfulness in every way. But again, the point is the more we grow in godliness, the more we rest in him, the more we bear fruit.
- 2 Timothy 2:20–22 “ Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.  Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.  So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Here, ministry effectiveness is tied to godliness.
- 2 Peter 1:8 – “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Growing in godliness means tasting more of the good life.
- The fruit of the Spirit, which comes from walking by the Spirit, is the good life. Galatians 5:22–23a “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control…” Who doesn’t want more of that in their lives and relationships?
- Godliness means gaining all the promises in Proverbs. In Proverbs, a righteous life is always connected to a longer life, more money, better children, better outcomes, and favor from the Lord.
So, we train ourselves with these spiritual disciplines for the purpose of godliness, and when we dig into what godliness means, we realize the incredible promise of godliness. To grow in godliness is to grow in all the good stuff of life as God designed it. We don’t practice for the sake of practice. We practice that we might mature into believers who know God and walk with God and know his will and act justly and show mercy and know his peace and power.
If that list seems appealing, then the spiritual disciplines are for you! Press on!
Whitney, D. S. (2014). Spiritual disciplines for the Christian life. NavPress.