Means of Grace: Outward Disciplines

Last week we looked at the inward disciplines of prayer, study, and meditation as avenues that God gives us Means of Grace in our daily lives. This week we will focus on three outward disciplines: Solitude, Submission, and Service.


Our culture doesn’t like to be alone. We also don’t like silence. This is part of the reason why Facebook and Twitter are so widely used as well. We don’t know how to be with ourselves. Solitude is not very high on people’s list, and yet it is one of the outward disciplines in which God offers His grace to our lives. Christ was constantly going off by himself in order to be by himself. His disciples often couldn’t understand why He would want to leave these huge crowds that were gathered to see and hear him. If Christ felt that he needed solitude, shouldn’t we as well?

In one of my seminary classes, for six weeks we had to spend 20 minutes in complete solitude every day. I will be honest, the first few days were excruciatingly awkward. I had not had much practice in this area. At the end of the first week, I began to realize just how noisy my life really was. Where the silence was painfully deafening at the beginning, it was a welcome friend by the end.

I use my garden as my place for solitude. I found it when I was raising bottle calves the last two fall seasons as well. There is value in being alone, in spending time in thought, in prayer, or simply just being. I find that the times where I invest moments in solitude that I have a clearer perspective on the circumstances of my day, a clearer understanding of what those in my life might be dealing with, and how I might be able to love them well. It is a chance for me to stop, and simply take a deep breath before re-entering what can be a crazy and challenging life at times.

Where do you go to find solitude?

When you’re at work and stress is high and “stuff” is hitting the fan, what if you stood up from your desk, stepped outside, and collected your thoughts for 3 minutes. It doesn’t seem like long, but I guarantee you, it will help you calm down and be able to re-engage with whatever is at hand.


Here’s another fun one that our culture has very little concept of. One of the reasons that it is so hard to grow along our journey with God, is that we are called to live “not by my will, but Your’s be done.” We have trouble submitting to God’s will for our lives because it often takes the reins out of our hands, and truth be told, we want to be the king of our lives.

For those who would enter Christian spiritual formation – life as normally understood, where the object is securing myself, promoting myself, indulging myself, is to be set aside.
— Dallas Willard | Renovation of the Heart

We are to submit to one another as well. This has implications at home and at work. We do so out of love. Pride will get in the way every time. Pride says that everyone around us at home and work is here to serve me. God says that in humility, submit to one another.


One of the most incredible stories in the Bible is told in John 13 as Jesus grabs a towel and bowl of water, kneels down and washes his disciples’ feet. This act of service was far below even his disciples, much less Jesus Christ. And yet Jesus was living what He had spent His life preaching – you are to serve God and serve others. If the Son of God, the Savior of the World, is willing to humble himself enough to take the place of a lowly servant and wash feet - we are to do the same today. He went out of his way to care for and love on people, and we are to do the same in our lives.

Service is one of the ways, as we talked about earlier, where our head (what we know) and our hearts (what we believe) collide with our hands and feet – how we act and how we live.

So how do I know when an opportunity to serve is in front of me? I’m glad you asked. If you come across an opportunity and your mind says, “That’s not my job” – there might be an opportunity to serve.

Service and love, to me, go hand in hand. If your heart is being transformed into Christ-likeness, your actions will be as well. You will find yourself in situations where, before you would have pretended like you didn’t see them, or try to avoid eye contact so you don’t have to help…where now you are willing to set your pride and whatever you are working on aside to serve and help out.

We deal with service every day in our work. How we take care of our customers reflects on the condition of our hearts. How we show appreciation to those who do well and work hard does as well. God uses services as a Means of Grace in our lives to continue to mold and shape our hearts and lives to look more and more like Christ’s each day.

Let’s live sincerely, humbly and devoutly. Let’s live patiently, obediently, with tenderness toward our neighbors. Let’s learn to put up with their imperfections. Let’s desire no chief seats with God, but be glad to serve him in his kitchen or his pantry, to be his janitors or garbage men. If later he wants us to serve on his private cabinet, so be it. But God does not reward his servants in relation to the dignity of positions, but rather in relation to the love and humility they bring to their assigned tasks.
— Francis De Sales | Authentic Devotion