REDISCOVERING THE ANCIENT PATH—Week of July 11, 2021
Live a Life of Moderation: Titus 1:7-8
We are in Week 23 of our examination of Benedict of Nursia’s rules for Christian formation. This week we’ll look at Rules 4.35-37: Live a Life of Moderation. These rules echo the call of Paul in Titus 1:8 to a life of discipline (which can also be translated “moderation”). It is not a call to discipline for discipline’s sake, for that would be stoicism. It is a call to embrace discipline for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of partaking in all that God has for us. Though this Scripture is found within the context of the qualifications of pastors and elders, the principle applies to us all. So, what does it mean to live a life of discipline, or moderation?
As the 20th Century theologian, philosopher, and scholar Dallas Willard said, “We intend what is right, but we avoid the life that would make it a reality.” Too often in our spiritual lives we are like the ball player who wants to be an all-star, but who never practices. We want to be like Jesus in his high moments, when he was suffering patiently, exhibiting miracle-working faith, and loving others even as they put him to death. But what we don’t want is the day in, day out, work Jesus did that prepared him for those moments. We want to live our lives as modern heroes of the faith, but are we willing to rise early to pray as Jesus did? Are we willing to patiently endure the wildernesses in our lives, expectantly looking for what God may teach us in those moments, or are we looking for the quickest way out? It is easy to get caught up in the gospel accounts of all the wonderful things Jesus did and miss all the work he did to prepare himself and his disciples for ministry.
I remember very distinctly when my sons made their first foray into tackle football. One son in particular was convinced that he was going to be an all-star. When I asked him why he thought he would be so good at football, he responded, “Dad, have you seen how good I am at Madden?” For those of you who don’t know, Madden is a football video game. You can imagine the shock he experienced at that first practice, when his coach said, “My job is to teach you to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Was it that coach’s mission to make my son’s life miserable? Not at all. But it was his job to teach my son the only path to success in football was through discipline and preparation. Just as those boys who skipped out on practice quickly faded in the heat of the Florida sun, so we too quickly wither under spiritual heat and pressure when we don’t put in the hard, but rewarding, work of spiritual discipline and preparation.
There is no easy path to spiritual maturity. Trying to take spiritual shortcuts only leads to bitterness, frustration, and disappointment. Each of us has the potential to be a spiritual all-star. The question is, are we willing to put in the work? Are we willing to moderate our lives for rewards that are eternal?
- Consider Dallas Willard’s statement, “We intend what is right, but we avoid the life that would make it a reality.” Could that be said of you physically, spiritually, or emotionally? Why or why not? If it is true of one area of your life but not another, why might that be?
- What are some of the ways Jesus put in the daily work to prepare him for his moments of triumph? What can we learn from his example?
- What are some action steps you can take personally to put you on the path of living a life of spiritual discipline? Just as you would with a workout partner, find someone to whom you can be accountable as you pursue these action steps.