The Disciple, the Disciplines and the Triumphant Life

January 14 - March 25, 1981
Rolling Hills Covenant Church - Rolling Estates, CA

Dallas taught this 11-week series at Rolling Hills Covenant Church in 1981 for people who really want to be like Jesus and have made an intentional decision to be a disciple of Christ.

The Disciple: To be a disciple is to be a learner. In the days when the New Testament was written, it was understood that a person discipled themselves to another individual because they wanted to be like that other individual.
The Disciplines: Chosen or purposeful activities wherein we learn to live by the power of God and in the character of God by the grace of God.
The Triumphant Life: A life of holiness and spiritual power that manifests itself in likeness to Christ.

Dallas mentions Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline, throughout the series. Richard’s book had just been published in 1978, and Dallas’s The Spirit of the Disciplines was later released in 1988. Both books will be a helpful way to dig deeper after listening to this series.


2: Presentation of the Body through the Consecration of its “Members”

Join us as Dallas Willard delves into the profound journey of spiritual transformation, where the dedication of our very bodies becomes the crucible for discipleship. Uncover the pivotal role of spiritual disciplines in aligning our earthly members with the divine, marking the path to a life lived in the fullness of Christ's image.

3: Fasting: The Paradigm of the Disciplines

Discover the transformative power of fasting, not as a mere act of self-denial, but as a profound spiritual discipline that deepens one's connection with God. Dallas unveils fasting's true purpose: to shift reliance from physical sustenance to the nourishing words of God, fostering spiritual growth and intimacy with the Divine.

4: Solitude and Silence and the Tongue

Explore how embracing solitude, silence, and mindful speech can profoundly deepen your spiritual journey. Discover transformative practices rooted in Christian tradition that nourish the soul, confront inner conflicts, and foster a closer, more meaningful relationship with God.

5: Simplicity, Frugality and Poverty

Discover the transformative power of simplicity, frugality, and the mastery of the tongue in Dallas Willard's enlightening talk. Uncover spiritual disciplines that can liberate you from the clutter of excess and guide you towards a more focused and fulfilling pursuit of spiritual goals and a deeper relationship with God.

6: Celibacy, Chastity and Purity

Dallas Willard unravels the complex interplay between spiritual disciplines and sexuality. Using rich metaphors and biblical wisdom, he sheds light on celibacy, chastity, and purity, advocating for a holistic approach to discipleship that harmonizes our physical existence with our spiritual journey.

7: Study and Meditation

Dallas Willard examines the transformative power of study and meditation. Explore how these practices can reshape your understanding of human nature, enhance your engagement with God's Kingdom, and encourage a deeper, more meaningful spiritual journey. Unlock the secrets to a richer faith through dedicated, thoughtful engagement.

8: Service and Sacrifice

Dallas Willard investigates the profound interplay of service and sacrifice. Drawing from Scripture and personal wisdom, he invites us to a radical rethinking of greatness, challenging us to embody the living Word through acts of humble service and to find true fulfillment in the inversion of worldly values.

9: Prayer as Service of Love

Discover the transformative power of prayer. Delve into prayer not only as a dialogue with God but as a profound discipline and service to others, essential for spiritual growth and ministry. Unpack practical advice to integrate this noble practice into your daily life.

10: Fellowship and Submission

Dallas Willard unveils the transformative power of fellowship and submission within the Christian life. These indispensable disciplines, rooted in love, forge deep communal bonds and individual growth. Dallas offers practical guidance for nurturing these relationships, ultimately painting a vision of a Christian community capable of changing the world.

11: Celebration and Worship

Discover the transformative power of joy in this inspiring talk on celebration and worship. Hear how integrating celebration as a spiritual discipline can deepen your connection with God's abundant goodness. Dallas’s insights reveal the profound impact of gratitude and joy on our spiritual journey, offering practical advice for weaving celebration into the fabric of daily life.

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“Adding to Your Faith” by Sowing to the Spirit and Exercising unto Godliness


  • Discipleship as a Core Identity: Dallas Willard emphasizes that being a disciple of Christ means making it the most important thing in your life to be like Jesus. This involves not just a superficial identification but a deep commitment to learning, growing, and transforming in Christ's image.
  • Distinction Between Teaching and Preaching: Dallas shares his approach to education in faith, highlighting the difference between teaching and preaching. Teaching, for him, is about engaging minds in a journey of growth and independent thinking, aiming to nurture a personal and communal understanding of God's word.
  • Role of Discipline in Spiritual Growth: He discusses the importance of spiritual disciplines as means to sow to the spirit. These practices aren't about earning favor with God but about entering into a deeper relationship with Him, leading to a life characterized by God's power and character.
  • Progression of Faith: Reflecting on 2 Peter 1, Dallas outlines a progression of growth in faith that includes virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Each step builds upon the last, indicating a journey towards completeness in faith.
  • Living by the Power of God: He encourages believers to live by the power of God, following the example of Moses and Paul. This involves engaging in activities that may seem foolish to the world but are acts of obedience to God, leading to living in His power and character.
  • The Call to Maturity and the Triumphant Life: Finally, Dallas underscores that the call of Christ is a call to maturity, to grow up into co-laborers with God. The triumphant life is characterized not by a lack of suffering but by living in the likeness of Christ, with all its implications for holiness, love, and power.

Presentation of the Body through the Consecration of its “Members”


  • Discipleship Requires Total Commitment: Dallas begins by emphasizing the depth of commitment required to be a disciple of Jesus. He clarifies that being a disciple goes beyond casual interest or periodic attention to Christian teachings; it demands a desire to be like Christ more than anything else in the world.
  • Role of Disciplines in Spiritual Formation: Dallas explains that spiritual disciplines are chosen activities that enable individuals to live by the power, character, and grace of God. He argues that transformation into the likeness of Christ is not an automatic or effortless process but requires engaging in life experiences and disciplines by choice.
  • Necessity of Willingness in Spiritual Growth: Highlighting the importance of willingness, he points out that spiritual growth and transformation require an openness to God's shaping. He introduces the concept of being "willing to be made willing," suggesting that even if one does not feel ready for change, the desire to be open to God's work is a crucial step.
  • Understanding the Body in Spiritual Practice: Dallas discusses the significance of the body in spiritual disciplines, noting that many such practices involve physical actions or abstentions. He argues that the body is not merely a physical entity but a vessel for spiritual learning and experience, integral to living a life led by the Spirit.
  • Battle Within the Body: Dallas delves into the concept of sin and righteousness battling within the body, highlighting that the members of the body can be instruments of sin or righteousness. He encourages his audience to yield their bodily members to God as instruments of righteousness, underscoring the physical aspect of spiritual battles.
  • Process of Redemption Involves the Body: Finally, Dallas concludes with a focus on the body as a repository of learned and innate abilities that can be transformed and redeemed. He speaks to the potential of the body to be conformed to the image of Christ through the practice of spiritual disciplines, emphasizing the physical dimension of spiritual transformation.

Fasting: The Paradigm of the Disciplines


  • Essence of Spiritual Disciplines: Dallas emphasizes that spiritual disciplines, including fasting, are about actively engaging in practices that foster spiritual growth and closeness with God. He dismisses the notion of passive spiritual development, advocating instead for deliberate and intentional actions to cultivate a deeper spiritual life.
  • Misconception of Fasting: He challenges common misconceptions of fasting as merely a form of self-denial or physical suffering for spiritual gain. Instead, he presents fasting as a way to realign one's dependence away from physical sustenance and towards spiritual nourishment from God.
  • Fasting as an Act of Faith: Highlighting the significance of Romans 7:17 and the concept of disowning the 'old self', Dallas suggests that fasting acts as a tangible expression of faith. It's a declaration that one's true sustenance and life come not from food but from every word that comes from the mouth of God, as exemplified by Jesus' fast in the wilderness.
  • Physical vs. Spiritual Nourishment: By citing Jesus' response to Satan in Matthew 4:4, Dallas underscores the critical lesson that man does not live on bread alone but on the word of God. This principle illustrates the deeper purpose of fasting: to learn and experience dependence on divine provision rather than physical food.
  • Role of Discipline in Spiritual Growth: Dallas stresses the necessity of discipline, including fasting, in spiritual growth. He refutes the idea that spiritual maturity will simply happen over time without intentional effort. Just as proficiency in any skill requires practice and discipline, so does growing in spiritual maturity and Christ-likeness.
  • Misinterpretations and Challenges of Fasting: Dallas also addresses potential misinterpretations and challenges of fasting, such as viewing it as a method to manipulate God or earn His favor. He corrects these views by framing fasting as a practice of withdrawing from physical sustenance to more fully engage with and depend on God's spiritual provision.

Solitude and Silence and the Tongue


  • Importance of Spiritual Disciplines: Dallas emphasizes the significance of spiritual disciplines as purposively undertaken activities that enable us to live by the power and character of God. He encourages approaching these disciplines as experiments, fostering a willingness to fail and learn from failures, highlighting that spiritual growth involves trial and improvement.
  • Confronting Inner Twistedness: Through the metaphor of twistedness and sin in our members (based on Romans 7:23), Dallas discusses the internal battles that believers face—the disconnect between knowing what is right and the inability to do it due to internal conflicts and weaknesses.
  • Fasting as a Path to Spiritual Nourishment: Dallas presents fasting not as mere deprivation but as a means to learn how the soul is nourished by God. He explains that fasting, understood within the context of Matthew 6:16-18, should lead to a joyous and content state, as it aligns with living on the words from God.
  • Role of Solitude in Spiritual Life: Solitude is portrayed as a crucial discipline for deepening one's relationship with God. Drawing from Jesus’ practice of seeking solitude, Dallas distinguishes between loneliness (a state of insufficiency) and solitude (a state of sufficiency with God), urging believers to find peace and replenishment in their solitary time with God.
  • Power of Silence: He discusses the transformative nature of silence as an extension of solitude. Silence involves turning off external and internal noises, allowing believers to face themselves and God without distractions. 
  • Discipline of the Tongue: The talk touches on the discipline of controlling one’s speech, pointing out how silence and careful speech can prevent the manipulation of one’s image and encourage trust in God. Dallas refers to Jesus’ selective silence before Pilate as an example of profound trust and surrender to God's will.

Simplicity, Frugality and Poverty


  • Power of the Tongue: Dallas emphasizes the significant impact of our words, drawing from scriptures that illustrate the tongue's ability to bring both life and death. He stresses the importance of bridling the tongue not just to silence it, but to direct it wisely, highlighting the connection between the heart and speech.
  • Intention and Simplicity: He defines simplicity as the absence of disjointed complexity in intention and will. Simplicity is about having a unified focus that avoids the distractions and clutter of life, allowing for a clearer pursuit of spiritual goals.
  • Frugality and Consumption: Frugality is described as consuming only what is necessary, avoiding waste, and living a life that is not dictated by excess. Dallas points out that frugality is not just about being economical but about prioritizing essential needs over desires.
  • Poverty vs. Spiritual Richness: Dallas distinguishes between the state of being poor and the spiritual discipline of living with less. While poverty is not a requirement for discipleship, simplicity and frugality are, as they free individuals from the enslavement to material possessions and desires.
  • Seeking the Kingdom First: He cites Matthew 6:33 to advocate for prioritizing the kingdom of God above all earthly concerns. He argues that when one seeks God's righteousness first, material needs will be met, allowing for a life lived in simplicity and trust in God's provision.
  • Practical Disciplines for Simplicity: Dallas suggests practical steps towards simplicity, including the discipline of silence to control the tongue and the practice of saying "no" to unnecessary commitments and consumerism. He encourages regular self-evaluation to shed unneeded complexities and focus on what truly matters.

Celibacy, Chastity and Purity


  • Growing Need for Discourse on Discipline: Dallas highlights the increased receptiveness of people towards discussing spiritual disciplines, such as celibacy, chastity, and purity, contrasting it with past decades where such topics might have been met with resistance or misunderstanding in many Protestant churches. This change signifies a deeper acknowledgment of the necessity for personal spiritual growth beyond conventional church attendance or activities.
  • Grafting as a Metaphor for Spiritual Transformation: Dallas uses the metaphor of grafting fruit trees—combining a strong, wild root with a fruit-bearing branch—to illustrate the process of spiritual transformation. This metaphor highlights the necessity of integrating our natural, physical existence with the spiritual, fruitful life offered through Christ, emphasizing the need to 'prune' or abstain from natural tendencies that don't produce spiritual fruit.
  • Complexity of Sexual Ethics in Christian Life: Dallas addresses the complex nature of sexuality within Christian ethics, distinguishing between celibacy, chastity, and purity. He argues for a nuanced understanding that appreciates the goodness of sexuality as created by God, while also acknowledging the challenges it presents in a fallen world.
  • Role of Discipline in Managing Bodily Desires: Dallas discusses Paul's approach to bodily discipline, including fasting and a frugal lifestyle, as a means to avoid being entangled in worldly affairs. This discipline is not about punishment but about training the body to serve God's purposes.
  • Value and Challenges of Celibacy: Dallas notes that celibacy is recognized but not commanded in Scripture, serving as a potential calling for some. He stresses the importance of presenting a 'radiant alternative' to sexual activity, where the purity of life in Christ enriches relationships and personal integrity, offering profound satisfaction beyond physical desires.
  • Engagement in Spiritual Disciplines for Growth: The talk concludes with a transition towards discussing Disciplines of Engagement, indicating a shift from abstaining from harmful practices (old man) to actively incorporating practices that foster spiritual growth and the life of Christ (new man). This shift underscores the balanced approach to Christian discipline.

Study and Meditation


  • Study and Meditation: Dallas introduces the evening’s focus on the spiritual disciplines of study and meditation. He sets the stage by highlighting the transformative potential of diving deeply into God’s word and the practice of meditation to understand and apply spiritual truths.
  • Power of Restraint and Engagement: Dallas discusses the transition from disciplines of abstinence to disciplines of engagement, such as study and meditation. He uses the metaphor of dynamite to illustrate the constructive power of restraint when properly channeled. This approach underlines the necessity of not only refraining from detrimental behaviors but also actively pursuing practices that enrich one’s spiritual life.
  • Understanding Human Nature - Spirit, Soul, and Body: Dallas explores the interconnection between the spirit, soul, and body, asserting the central role of thought and understanding in the control of one's life. He challenges listeners to consider the profound influence of their thoughts and beliefs on their actions and physical well-being, emphasizing the importance of aligning these with the truth of God’s word.
  • Role of Study and Meditation in Spiritual Growth: Dallas differentiates between study and meditation as tools for spiritual growth. Study involves the acquisition of new information, while meditation seeks to uncover the deeper meaning and significance of what is already known. He argues that both practices are crucial for a meaningful engagement with scripture and essential for nurturing a deeper relationship with God.
  • Need for Dedicated Time and Effort: Highlighting the practical aspects of study and meditation, Dallas stresses the importance of setting aside significant, uninterrupted time for these disciplines. He likens the effort required for spiritual disciplines to physical activities that demand focused attention, illustrating that meaningful engagement with God’s word cannot be achieved in sporadic, brief sessions.
  • Incorporating Study and Meditation into Daily Routines: Dallas closes with a call to action, encouraging listeners to make study and meditation a regular part of their spiritual routine. He emphasizes the transformative impact of consistently engaging with scripture and meditation on one’s faith journey. By integrating these practices into daily life, believers can expect to deepen their understanding of God and experience greater alignment with His Kingdom.

Service and Sacrifice


  • Integration of Scripture and Life: Dallas Willard emphasizes the importance of meditating on and embodying the Word of God in daily life, specifically referencing Joshua 1:8. He suggests that the act of meditation is not just a silent, internal process but also involves engaging with the Scriptures vocally and physically, making the Word a living part of one's being.
  • Service as an Expression of Sacrifice: Dallas challenges common notions of service and sacrifice, illustrating through the story of the widow's mite (Luke 21:1-4) that true service and sacrifice come from giving wholly of oneself, regardless of the size of the gift. This contrasts sharply with societal views that often equate the significance of a contribution with its material value.
  • Inversion of Values: Through various teachings of Jesus, such as "the first shall be last and the last shall be first" and the act of washing the disciples' feet, Dallas underlines the Christian inversion of worldly values. Greatness in the kingdom of God is found in humility and service, not in seeking to be served or in the accumulation of power or recognition.
  • Disciplines of Engagement: Dallas connects the disciplines of study and meditation with the discipline of service, arguing that deep engagement with God's Word naturally leads to a life marked by service. He stresses that such disciplines are not merely personal or internal practices but are fundamentally about how they enable us to serve others more effectively.
  • Dangers of Seeking Reward in Service: He warns against serving others with the motive of receiving appreciation or reward, advocating instead for service that seeks nothing in return. Service is to be performed for the sake of doing good to others, embodying the love and generosity of Christ without expectation of reciprocation or acknowledgment.
  • Seasonality of Life: Dallas reflects on the seasons of life, drawing from Ecclesiastes 3 to suggest that a life oriented toward service prepares one to face all seasons—joy and sorrow, gain and loss—with grace. He proposes that the discipline of service instills a profound stability and simplicity in one's life, allowing for a deep-seated peace and resilience through all of life's changes.

Prayer as Service of Love


  • Prayer as a Discipline for Spiritual Growth: Dallas introduces prayer not just as a practice but as a discipline, aiming to bring us into a closer and more character-like alignment with God. He emphasizes the potential of prayer to transform our vision, faith, and direction towards God's character and power.
  • Misunderstanding of Prayer's Greatness: He challenges common perceptions of prayer as a last resort or a response to dire situations. Instead, Dallas positions prayer as a noble, engaging dialogue with God, capable of being as significant as any other activity, if not more so.
  • Prayer as Service to God and Others: Drawing from the scriptures, particularly 1 Samuel 12:23 and Luke 2:36-37, Dallas highlights prayer as an essential service. It serves God by participating in His works and serves others by interceding on their behalf, thus fostering a community bound by spiritual support.
  • Nature of Prayer: Dallas defines prayer as communication with God, aimed at accomplishing His goals in our lives and the world. This communication isn't just about requests or intercessions but involves a deep, conversational relationship with God, echoing the sentiments that prayer can be as simple and profound as a conversation with a friend.
  • Prayer's Role in the Christian Ministry: He underscores the critical role of prayer in the ministry, drawing from Acts 6:2-4, where the apostles prioritize prayer and the ministry of the word. This segment serves as a reminder of the foundational importance of prayer in spiritual leadership and the church's collective mission.
  • Practical Advice on Praying Effectively: Dallas offers practical steps to cultivate a rich prayer life, including starting the day with prayer and following a structure that includes adoration, thanksgiving, confession, petition, and intercession. This advice is aimed at making prayer a natural, integral part of one's daily routine.

Fellowship and Submission


  • Fellowship and Submission Defined: Dallas explains that both fellowship and submission are indispensable disciplines within Christian life. Fellowship involves placing oneself in the same boat with others, identifying with their strengths and weaknesses. Submission is about prioritizing others' interests above one's own, embodying the attitude of a servant.
  • Relating Fellowship and Submission to Love: Dallas emphasizes that the only basis for true fellowship and submission is love. He discusses how love, according to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, transforms understanding and practice of these disciplines. He also touches upon the challenge of practicing them in the absence of love.
  • Practical Application in Church Community: Dallas stresses the importance of not forsaking the assembling of believers as an expression of submission and fellowship. He critiques the consumerist approach to church participation and highlights the need for genuine engagement with others in the community.
  • Love is Not Liking: A profound distinction Dallas makes is that loving someone is not the same as liking them. This understanding frees individuals to practice fellowship and submission beyond their personal preferences and prejudices, fostering deeper community bonds.
  • Practical Steps for Engaging in Fellowship and Submission: Dallas offers practical advice for deepening these disciplines, including identifying key relationships God has placed in one's life, actively cultivating fellowship through shared spiritual practices, and committing to regular participation in communal worship as an act of love and service.
  • Vision of Christian Community: Dallas concludes with a vision for the Christian community as a powerful force for transformation in the world, built on the principles of fellowship, submission, and love. He envisions a community where societal problems find their solutions within the dynamics of Christ-centered relationships.

Celebration and Worship


  • Discipline of Celebration: Dallas emphasizes celebration as a spiritual discipline, underscoring the intrinsic joy and gratitude it brings to our lives. This discipline honors God's goodness and abundance, challenging common associations of discipline with hardship.
  • Integration of Scripture and Practical Living: Dallas intricately ties scriptural references (e.g., Philippians 4:11-13, Romans 8:37, Psalm 23:5) with the concept of celebration, illustrating how living a life of abundance and gratitude is deeply rooted in biblical teachings.
  • Comprehensive Approach to Spiritual Disciplines: The talk doesn't isolate celebration but places it within a broader context of spiritual disciplines, advocating for a balanced, holistic approach to spiritual growth that includes aspects like submission, solitude, and service.
  • Practical Application and Challenges: Dallas candidly addresses the challenges in practicing celebration and other disciplines in modern life, offering practical advice on integrating these practices into daily routines and overcoming potential obstacles.
  • Question and Answer Segment: The Q&A session enriches the discussion by tackling real-world concerns and clarifications, such as the significance of giving thanks in all circumstances, integrating disciplines into busy schedules, and understanding the biblical perspective on activities like dancing.
  • Closing Reflections: Dallas's closing prayer and reflections highlight the transformative potential of diligently practicing spiritual disciplines, encouraging a journey towards conforming more closely to the image of Christ through faith, discipline, and joy.