...the true tradition of praying is that the capacity of a man devoted to this work should be realized without wearying of his vow, whether the excellency of his capacity allows this, or whether his mental grasp or physical condition could allow it, considering his limitations, and that it should be realized as far as the zeal of each demands...
- Columbanus, Monks’ Rule, Irish, 7th century
Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is thatto you? You follow Me.”
- John 21.20-22
Columbanus touches on a general principle of spiritual life, namely, that each of us has realized a particular stage of growth in the Lord, and each has a unique capacity for continuing to grow. We should not expect to be on the same level of Christian growth as others, and we need to discern and practice those disciplines which are best adapted to our capacity for growing at any time.
In other words, where growing in the Lord is concerned, it’s not one size fits all. And just as important, as Jesus reminded Peter, each of us should be zealous to discover and develop our own capacity for following the Lord, without occupying ourselves about where others are or ought to be in their walk with and work for Him.
The monastic rules of discipline developed by Celtic Christians were nearly always more demanding than anything practiced anywhere else in the Church in those days. It was this focused and austere discipline that enabled Irish monastics to respond readily to calls to mission or service in dangerous and distant lands. It also enabled them to achieve depths of spiritual vitality that attracted young people to them by the thousands, in the hope of finding a more meaningful and satisfying life.
But if I understand Columbanus correctly, it appears there was flexibility in living by these rules. Men were expected to do the best they could in keeping the rule, according to their stage of growth in the Lord (zeal) and their strength and ability to perform what their vows required (capacity).
In other words, in employing these broad and demanding rules of discipline, room for individual expression and development was encouraged.
So it is with us today. God has not called us to worry about where others may be in their walk with the Lord, or what He may be doing with them. We are only responsible for ourselves, and if we work hard to nurture our zeal and capacity in following the Lord, we will find that He can use us to encourage and strengthen others, even as we are joyously growing in Him ourselves.
Following Jesus is enhanced by practicing such disciplines as will fill up the time of our lives with Kingdom-seeking. Any moment and any exertion or activity not devoted to advancing Christ’s rule of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit will be devoted to – what? A disciplined life is a life lived continuously before the Lord and for His glory. The more we focus on this and prepare for it each day, the more we will realize the presence of the Lord with us at every moment, in every situation, leading us step by step in following Him.
We need a disciplined approach to Kingdom living, one adapted to where we are in the Lord at any time; and one that enables us to improve the use of our time and to gain the benefits of the disciplines God prescribes for us in His Word.
How would you describe your zeal and capacity for the Lord? What do the disciplines that fill the time of your life say about where you are in your walk with Him?
Seek to establish a rule of discipline that will energize your growth in and service for the One Who says to each one of us, “You follow Me.”
1. What does it mean to “redeem” the time of our lives (Eph. 5.15-17)?
2. Where would you like to be more disciplined for the Lord in your life?
Psalm 116.7-14 (Mit Freuden Zart: All Praise to God Who Reigns Above)
Full well the Lord has dealt with me; my soul from death He delivered.
My weeping eyes, my stumbling feet, He has redeemed forever.
Forever I before His face shall walk with those who know His grace,
And dwell with them forever.
Afflicted, I believe His Word, though lying men would undo me.
What shall I render to the Lord for all His blessings to me?
Salvation’s cup I lift above and call upon the God of love
And pay my vows most truly.
Lord, show me the best way to follow You every day. Are my disciplines what they should be? Is my zeal and is my capacity what You expect of me? Help me today to…
The Disciplined Life
As you pray…
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T. M. Moore, Principal
All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Walker, p. 133.