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About the Author
Jill Briscoe was born in Liverpool, England, in 1935. Educated at Cambridge, she taught school for a number of years before marrying Stuart and raising their three children. In addition to sharing with her husband in ministry with Torchbearers at Capernwray in England, and in pastoring a church in the United States for thirty years, Jill has written more than forty books, travelled on every continent teaching and encouraging, served on the boards of Christianity Today and World Relief, and now acts as executive editor of a magazine for women called Just Between Us. Jill can be heard regularly on the worldwide media ministry Telling the Truth. She is proud to be called “Nana” by thirteen grandchildren.
Read an Excerpt
Spiritual ArtsMastering the Disciplines for a Rich Spiritual Life
By Jill Briscoe
ZondervanCopyright © 2007 Jill Briscoe
All right reserved.
Chapter Onethe spiritual art of ministry
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Philippians 1:27
People often say to me, "I wish I knew what God wanted me to do with my life."
"That's easy," I reply. "Ministry."
Their eyes open wide. "You mean give up my job and go away to a nunnery or something?"
"No," I reply, "probably not. Just get going. Look around you. The mission field is between your own two feet at any one time."
Ministry is not something for the professional Christian only-someone who has been to seminary or Bible school or on the mission field. It is for all who have become new persons in Christ Jesus and have experienced "the old things passing away, and all things becoming new" (see 2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV). It is for those who have had a radical change in their lives because of their conversion and who want-more than that, feel-a responsibility to make sure everyone has the same opportunity.
Ministry is being a blessing. It's serving and giving and not counting the cost. It's what we who love Jesus are supposed to be doing all day, every day. Ministry is talking about Jesus, serving Jesus, being Jesus where people are in need of Jesus. Ministry is the most exciting, stretching thing in the world. It's an art-a spiritual art.
Ministry-helping people-happens all day every day and all night every night. Ministry goes on all over the world and on all seven continents. Old people and young people minister. Black people and white people. Wealthy people and poor people. Sick people and healthy people. Ministry is a full-time twenty-four-hour thing. An "I can't wait to get going in the morning" thing. An "I don't have time to sleep" thing. An "I can't believe I have the privilege of doing this" thing. It's a hard thing, a glorious thing, a stretch, a reach, a "pulling you in every direction" thing. It is exhausting and exhilarating, an emptying of yourself and a "filling up to overflowing" thing. Ministry is in the end an art of the Spirit-a spiritual art.
A CHAIN OF BLESSING
Christian ministry is a chain of blessing that begins with someone getting blessed-someone coming to faith in Jesus Christ and being converted, turned around, transformed from the inside out-and in turn being a blessing to everyone in their orbit. It's a chain. A chain of blessing.
When I was converted, the girl who led me to the Lord handed me a Bible and told me to start reading it and to share my discoveries with everyone in sight. Seeing that I was in the hospital at the time and she was sick in the bed next to me, I looked at her inquiringly, suspecting she actually meant for me to share with all the people in the ward and the nurses, doctors, friends, and family members who came to visit. She did.
"Look," she said, pointing to a starched and somewhat formidable woman, "the chief nurse is coming. Tell her what you've just told God when you prayed with me."
Before I could protest, the nurse was at my bedside, and conscious of the eagle eye of my spiritual mother on my every move, I prayed my second prayer (the first had been prayed a brief time before, when I had invited Christ into my life) and wondered what on earth I was going to say. I needn't have worried.
"What's this?" asked the nurse, picking up the Bible that had suddenly appeared on my bedside table.
"Uh, a Bible," I answered somewhat lamely. She shot me a look I couldn't read-or rather didn't want to interpret, because I knew she had heard my crude language and seen my wild friends visiting me and was obviously thinking, "Oh my, this is a change of personality; she needs the psychiatrist"-and she did actually send one to see me that afternoon!
Janet, my new friend, had told me about Jesus, and now I told the nurse about him as best I could. I did an awful job of it, of course. I was less than a few hours old-a baby Christian-but something happened to me as I confessed my very new faith to her. I didn't know then that the Bible said I was to believe in my heart and make confession with my lips about my salvation (Romans 10:10), but spurred on by Janet, I obeyed.
I remember looking at the startled nurse and seeing a rather hard woman who was worried about something, who didn't know she needed a God to lean on, a Christ to save her, and some peace of mind. In my tiny way I put a link on the chain. And I got it. This was it. I was to be part of chains of blessing for the rest of my life. I was to learn this spiritual ability, this spiritual art of ministry.
Of course, I realized at once that I had a lot to learn. It would take a lot of expertise to lead this woman to Jesus as Janet had led me, and for that I would need to go to some sort of school, I supposed. It was Janet who told me that I was enrolled already in the school of spiritual arts, and the Spirit himself would show me how to minister. It was also Janet who showed me that I would have opportunities every day to practice ministry. She opened my eyes to the opportunities 24-7, as they say.
"Wake up in the morning, Jill, determined to be a blessing," Janet had said. I should have this attitude, whether people wanted me to be a blessing or not. This was conversion. I who had woken up most mornings determined to be a bane was now to wake up determined to be a blessing? Well now, that would surely get my friends' attention. It did.
So ministry is for all of us-those of us who have grown up in the church and those of us who, like me, have come to Christ from the outside of "Christian everything." So don't say, "But I don't have any opportunity to minister. I have no training." Ask God to show you the hundreds of opportunities that are right under your nose every day.
MINISTRY IN DIFFICULTIES
Some people see a difficulty in every opportunity, while others see an opportunity in every difficulty. It's a question of the way you look at life. Something unfavorable happens to us that we are not expecting-how do we handle it? The book of Philippians is a marvelous book that gives us good examples of how to take advantage of trouble for God.
Sitting in a cold, dark jail cell, Paul wrote to his friends in Philippi: "What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel" (1:12). He declares that because of his chains (1:14), he has this marvelous opportunity. He may as well have said "in spite of" my chains. Paul considered himself a prisoner not of Rome but of Jesus Christ. He was there as an ambassador to represent his Lord and Savior. Hadn't the Lord said, "I will show him [Paul] how much he must suffer for my name" (Acts 9:16)? God had also promised Paul that he would one day take the gospel to Rome, the heart of the empire (see Acts 23:11). When something hard happened to the apostle Paul, his instant reaction was, "How can I use this as a platform to explain the gospel?"
Paul had no idea how he was ever going to get to Rome. But he knew that one way or another, God would get him to the heart of the empire. And what would happen when he got there? Perhaps Paul envisaged a great crusade in the Coliseum. I doubt it though. He didn't know how this trip to Rome would actually happen and probably thought it could happen only if he were a free man. But Paul had a wonderful habit of seeing an opportunity to minister in every difficulty.
Paul, therefore, looked at his chains as a positive. "These are chains of blessing," he would have said to himself. In fact, he didn't just say it to himself; he said it to his friends: "These chains on my wrists have turned out to be chains of blessings for others." What an attitude! And Paul wants them to learn the lesson too. In another letter, Paul tells the Christians to make sure they learned to "make the most of every opportunity" (Ephesians 5:16). He wanted them to begin to practice the art of ministry.
Whether we find it easy or difficult to take the opportunity to make Christ known when we're in tough situations may have something to do with our personalities. It may be harder for some than others. I am a negative sort of person to begin with, while my husband Stuart is the positive part of the partnership. He would see the doughnut; I would see the hole. And if perchance Stuart would see the hole, he would spell it w-h-o-l-e. But faith can turn even a melancholy person into a positive one. To discover this was a huge encouragement that helped me see even confining situations as a chance to practice this spiritual art.
As we meet Paul in prison, most likely in Rome, there is little encouragement for him on the horizon. He is preparing to defend his life in a Roman court. He is to be put on trial for his faith, and he is not really expecting to win his case. However, he is quite at ease, as his faith tells him that if God wants him around a bit longer for the good of the young believers, he will be released. If not, he will walk through the front door of heaven and be with Jesus. He can't quite make up his mind which he prefers. He reckons he'd rather have heaven, but he's quite content to stay a while longer on earth for the sake of his beloved Philippians. "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain," he writes in his letter (1:21). You can't beat an attitude like that.
Shakespeare's Hamlet, prince of Denmark, would at a particularly dark time in his life walk around the ramparts of his castle with the same musings but draw quite a different conclusion. "If I live, it's awful; and if I die, it's worse!" he mused-or in other words, "To be or not to be: that is the question." Paul, on the other hand, was thinking about the same alternatives in front of him and saying to himself, "If I live, it's all about Christ; and if I die, I'll be with him forever. So keep me alive or kill me, no problem; take your pick."
A Christian has two great opportunities: to live and to die. Do you think of living and dying as two grand-slam opportunities? Well, it all depends on whether Christ is in your life. And if Christ is in your life, then death is your gain!
Back at the ranch, or rather at the jail, Paul was making the most of things. He was busy using his unusual opportunities and exercising the spiritual art of ministry.
THE MINISTRY OF PRAYER
Shortly after finishing school and beginning to teach in my hometown of Liverpool, I was rushed to the hospital by ambulance with suspected appendicitis. On the way, I thought to myself, "Well, I may be able to witness to some patients or nurses while I'm there." Then I thought, "But it's a good chance to catch up on my reading, or just relax as best I can and concentrate on getting well. Christians are allowed a little time off, aren't they?"
An idea intruded into my thinking at this point. What if Janet had spent her time in the hospital looking after only her own interests and had never had time for Jill Ryder? What if she had been solely absorbed with her considerable pain and not been amazingly able to reach out of it into mine? What if she hadn't prayed for me?
So I do remember realizing that I had an opportunity to exploit this difficulty for the Lord, just as Janet had used hers. But I don't remember thinking, "Yeah! This is a great chance to spend hours and hours in prayer for other people." But then I had not fully realized that taking every opportunity for Christ doesn't only mean talking to people but also involves praying for them. When trouble comes, we need to train our minds to go to God first and foremost in prayer, and then to keep on going.
A friend sent me a get-well card that said, "The world says, 'laid aside for illness.' Christ says, 'called aside for stillness.'"
"Bother," I remember saying out loud. I didn't want to hear that. I knew it was right, however, and so I told God I was sorry and began to use the hours I would have used talking to everyone and their wives who came on by or catching up on magazine gossip to learn the spiritual art of intercession. Chained to my hospital bed for a couple of weeks, my prayer life took a giant leap forward.
Now, we can pray anywhere, anytime, but sometimes we need a nudge to remember that. Circumstance can lend us a hand. After he gives his greeting, Paul is found in the opening lines of his letter praying for his friends, and he tells them so.
"I am praying for you," he says. He has had hours and hours of uninterrupted time in his cell to talk to his heavenly Father about his friends and their troubles. If he had been free, it wouldn't have been so easy to make the time. True, he is uncomfortable, and a guard is attached to him at all times of day or night-but no matter, it is downtime!
The prayer in Philippians 1:3-11 is fascinating. It tells us much about Paul. Paul's prayer isn't first filled with a list of prayer requests for his health or laments about the conditions "inside," though elsewhere in the letter he does ask people to pray specifically about his practical and personal needs, but Paul shows us here the heart of prayer by telling the Philippians that they are the focus of his thinking.
"I thank my God for you," he says. "I remember you-all of you-with joy all the time." He tells them what a sheer joy they are to him. So often we pray for people, and there's not too much joy in the doing of it. What a boost to our own faith when someone is bringing us joy, and how it encourages us to keep on praying for those who make our hearts smile.
Paul tells them that he believes in them and in the work of God within them that will continue in their hearts and lives to the end. He has confidence that they will stay the course. This isn't a reason to stop praying for them, he says, but a good reason to redouble his efforts. He is well aware that the Devil will not be idle when he sees people such as the Philippians finishing strong. Someone once said to me, "You seem so strong that I don't feel the need to pray for you as much as for those who are weak." That didn't make me feel very safe! Paul knows that the Philippians are strong, but this is all the more reason to go on praying for them. He tells them that he loves them, misses them, and is homesick for them all (1:8).
Paul's intercession tells us about his relationship with the Gentile believers, and how deeply he loves the people he prays for. "I have you in my heart," he tells them (1:7). It always helps-loving the people you are praying for, having them in your heart.
Ask God to put the people you pray for in your heart. Ask the Spirit to transfer a piece of his heart for them to your heart. Loving someone will help you to keep your mind on others and off yourself and your own problems when you pray. And what does Paul pray for his friends?
First, he prays that their love for each other will grow and abound "more and more" (1:9). We all need more and more love for each other. Do you have anyone in your life that needs more and more love for others? I do. Pray "more and more love" prayers for them. Then Paul prays that they will know and discern what is best, and that they will live godly lives. He prays they may be people of integrity-Christlike-and that comes from the Spirit. Being like Christ is pure spiritual art. Lastly, Paul prays that God will get a lot of credit for the lives lived for him in Philippi. If you don't know what to pray for the people you love, borrow Paul's words or the pattern of his prayers.
Think about all the opportunities you've had this week to exercise the art of intercession for your friends. Unexpected times. Did you do it, or were you and the people in your heart poorer as a result of the lost opportunity?
THE MINISTRY OF EVANGELISM
Paul casually mentions that he is practicing the art of evangelism in jail. He writes, "What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ" (1:12-13).
There are some situations we do not choose for ourselves where we find ourselves chained to a person, situation, or circumstance that is downright difficult or discouraging-or worse, dangerous. What will we do with them? Will we see the person or persons on the other end of the chain getting blessed? It's up to us. I ask myself, "In what way has what has happened to me advanced the gospel?" Or to put it another way, "What happened through me when something happened to me?" For example, did I miss the opportunity when I was in the hospital not only to pray for those in my heart but to evangelize as well? The hospital is a great place to talk about the Lord. People are a little scared, or at least apprehensive and certainly vulnerable, and we should take full advantage of it for the Lord.
Excerpted from Spiritual Arts by Jill Briscoe Copyright © 2007 by Jill Briscoe. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
ContentsIntroduction: The Art of Spirituality....................9
1. The Spiritual Art of Ministry....................15
2. The Spiritual Art of Harmony....................37
3. The Spiritual Art of Humility....................59
4. The Spiritual Art of Intimacy....................83
5. The Spiritual Art of Tenacity....................103
6. The Spiritual Art of Maturity....................127
7. The Spiritual Art of Serenity....................149
8. The Spiritual Art of Receptivity....................171
What People are Saying About This
In this extended reflection on Paul's letter to the Philippians, Briscoe, executive editor of Just Between Us magazine, sketches out eight “spiritual arts”---hallmarks of dedicated Christian living, including tenacity and serenity. These arts are simultaneously aspects of faithful Christian living that the Holy Spirit pours out upon believers and practices of the faith to which people can intentionally commit themselves. (As Briscoe puts it, “There is God's part in this program, and there is our part.... [W]e must cooperate.”) Briscoe calls readers to practice intentional peacemaking within the body of Christ; to laugh at themselves and learn to be humble; and to cultivate intimacy with God. One of her most insightful chapters focuses on the spiritual art of maturity, in which she suggests that Christians should always seek to grow in their faith. Mature Christians care deeply about “lost people” and lead lives worth imitating. Briscoe concludes the book with a fruitful discussion of the art of both giving and receiving---she especially encourages readers to cultivate receptive, “teachable” hearts. Her clear, accessible prose and the discussion questions and prayer prompts that close every chapter enhance this small, quiet, wise book. Briscoe's uniting biblical meditation with the popular language of spiritual disciplines is sure to resonate with evangelicals. (Aug.) -- Publisher’s Weekly