Simplicity and Solitude

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Stop Look and Listen

This is the third week in our series on Spiritual Disciplines. This week we are looking at two spiritual practices: simplicity and solitude.

‘Tis the gift to be simple,
‘Tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

– Shaker Hymn, 1848

The discipline of simplicity helps us guard against having too much. We live in a materialistic society. We are taught to crave things we don’t need. Society recognizes and defines people by what they earn, produce, accomplish, and look like. The Bible warns us against an idolatrous attachment to wealth.

  • Psalm 62:10 – If your riches increase, don’t set your heart on them.
  • Tenth commandment: Do not covet

Jesus said that we can’t serve both wealth and God at the same time. He also warned us not to store up treasures on earth, but rather in heaven.

Simplicity is having the right priorities and right ways to look at material things. We should understand that everything we have comes from God – they are gifts, and we should be willing to share them.

Here are some suggestions on how to live in simplicity:

  1. Buy things for their usefulness, not for status
  2. Reject things that cause or fuel addictions
  3. Learn to give things away
  4. Recognize and refuse society’s propaganda
  5. Develop an appreciation for God’s creation – it’s free!
  6. Use plain, honest speech (Matthew 5:37)
  7. Shun anything that distracts you from seeking God’s kingdom first

Adapted from Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline

The discipline of solitude helps us guard against doing too much. Most of us are surrounded by a constant flurry of activity and noise. Our TVs are always on, we have personal music players on all the time, and our cell phones are never out of reach. Besides this, we all seem to be in a big hurry.

As a result of the barrage of activity and hurry, we seldom spend time alone, in silence. Jesus knew what it was like to experience the demands of constant activity and ministry, and he dealt with it by spending a lot of time alone, away from the crowds. He asked his disciples to do the same: Come away with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest (Mark 6:31).

Spending time alone helps us recharge our spiritual batteries, helps us love and appreciate God and others, and gives us a fresh perspective on life. I believe it helps us hear and discern God’s voice better, too.

Here are some suggestions on how to practice the discipline of solitude:

  1. Make time for silence and solitude
  2. Take advantage of short times of solitude
  3. Find or make a “quiet place”
  4. Try going a few hours without talking!
  5. Several times a year, get by yourself for a few hours
  6. Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life!
  7. Ask God to speak to you and teach you during your alone times

Adapted from John Ortberg’s The Life You’ve Always Wanted

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