Spiritually Formative Practices and Stress-Related Disorders 3 boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Nor is this considered to be solely human work. In Philippians 2:13, Paul writes, “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” So Christian spiritual formation is a joint project by God’s initiative and the Christian’s responsiveness to form Christ’s character within the believer, conforming the Christian to the template of Jesus’s character. Furthermore, the project of building people into Christlikeness is also a community project, involving an unseen cloud of witnesses who have gone before (Heb. 12:1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every- thing that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us”) and a community of believers who are contemporary with the Christian—parents, teachers, elders, exemplars, preachers, and fellow Christians who encourage each other, whether they are near or far from the Christian—all helping one another to move toward more Christlikeness (1 Thess. 5:11: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” Rom. 14:19: “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification [i.e., upbuilding].”). Methods of Christian Spiritual Formation Over the centuries, many of the methods by which Christians form each other in line with the work of the Holy Spirit have become institutions. Peo- ple start their journey toward Christlikeness by taking encouragement to begin from scripture or their local religious leaders. Then they engage in systematic spiritual practices. These started with the early church members encouraging one another. As the author of Hebrews writes, “And let us con- sider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giv- ing up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:24– 25). The practices progressed to those initiated by the desert forbears,2 who practiced piety in the wilderness, and later to people who withdrew into convents and orders in the church and practiced spiritual disciplines within a close community of people who were struggling with the same spiritual growth issues and temptations and could admonish, teach, and encourage each other. These include things like listening to sermons that teach, admon- ish, and encourage heeding prophets who speak God’s truth to people attending Christian education programs in churches, seminaries, universi- ties, or high schools practicing spiritual disciplines (e.g., prayer, silence, soli- tude, fasting) taking spiritual direction listening to or watching Christian speakers, teachers, radio stations, television programming, podcasts, and YouTube clips watching Christian drama reading Christian novels and all
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