A Life Renovated for the Kingdom
Dallas Willard, renowned teacher, acclaimed writer and one of our most brilliant Christian thinkers, died of cancer May 8, 2013. He was 77.
Willard is known for changing the way thousands of Christians experience their faith. He was an acclaimed author whose books include The Divine Conspiracy (Christianity Today's Book of the Year in 1998), The Spirit of the Disciplines, Hearing God, Renovation of the Heart and others. Willard's most profound influence is in the area of spiritual formation and in the way he humbly mentored so many of today's leaders in the Christian faith.
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Words from a True Apprentice
Being close to God means communicating with him, which is almost always a two-way street. In our ongoing friendship with God we tell him what is on our hearts in prayer and learn to perceive what he is saying to us. It is this second part of our conversation with God that is found by many to be so difficult or even unapproachable. How can you be sure God is speaking to you? The answer is that we learn by experience. The key is to focus more on building our personal relationship with our Creator and less on individual actions and decisions. Hearing God’s directions is only one dimension of a rich and interactive relationship. Obtaining specific guidance is but one facet of hearing God.
Ultimately, we are to move beyond the question of hearing God and into a life greater than our own—that of the kingdom of God. Our concern for discerning God’s voice must be overwhelmed by and lost in our worship and adoration of him and in our delight with his creation and his provision for our whole life. Our aim in such a life is to identify all that we are and all that we do with God’s purposes in creating us and our world. Thus we learn how to do all things to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31; Col 3:17). Learning the two-way communication between us and God will develop as a natural part of such a life.
Tributes from Friends
"Dallas Willard made major inroads into our understanding of the huge philosophical issues of phenomenology and the philosophy of mind. To the general public he is best known for his Christian writings, the most prominent being The Divine Conspiracy. Again and again I have been profoundly struck by Dallas Willard's ability to speak fully to both mind and heart. His intellectual stature and his deep devotion to Christ were distinguishing marks of his life. And, above all else, the humility and gracious character of his life were simply stunning."
"My beloved friend and mentor, Dr. Dallas Willard, was the most brilliant and Christlike man I have ever known. He preached and taught the gospel of the available Kingdom of God, and lived it each day. Quite simply, his life and teaching radically changed my life for the good. I was privileged to have known him for twenty-eight years, and was richly blessed by serving as his teaching assistant at Fuller for seven summer courses, wherein I listened to Dallas teach about being an apprentice of Jesus. He lived with grace and dignity, free from anger or envy, and offered wisdom and kindness to all he met. My heart is in pain at his passing, but I am comforted in the certainty that at this moment he now rules and reigns in the heavens with the blessed Trinity, and that one glorious day I shall see him again."
"This morning our wonderful teacher and friend awakened to the full goodness of the Kingdom of the Heavens he had described so beautifully. I believe Dallas Willard was one of the great reformers of Christian thought of the past century and that his most powerful lessons were in how he lived an unhurried life with God."
"Renovaré is grieving the loss of our dear friend, brother and ministry team member, Dallas Willard. And yet, we are rejoicing that Dallas is fully experiencing the Kingdom of God he so beautifully and faithfully taught us about. Dallas's work has had an enormous impact on the ministry of Renovaré, and although we were recipients of his great intellect and wisdom, we have learned the most from Dallas by just watching him live his life—fully devoted to Jesus and passionately sharing with others what an abundant life looks like in the here and now."
"He was the kind of figure and person that only is given by God once in many generations…. Dallas Willard has called evangelicals back to the ancients and their practice of the forgotten disciplines of silence, solitude, reflective reading of Scripture and unceasing prayer, fasting, etc. and their vision of the kind of life these can produce. We who have learned from him stand on his shoulders looking for how to build on his work."
"Dallas was a lighthouse for all Christian academics and intellectuals. When I first met him, I was a new and bewildered Christian teaching in a secular university. I knew instantly—this is what Jesus would look like as a professor! Dallas was ever the generous spiritual academic father to so many of us. Now that he has become a part of that great cloud of witnesses, we must encourage one another to continue the work he so brilliantly, lovingly and faithfully began. The lighthouse still beckons us."
"Many years ago in a private moment I asked Dallas, 'What is your greatest concern about the kingdom-based spiritual formation movement?' Without hesitation he answered: 'Willard-ites.' We sat silent for a few moments, that word hanging in the air. On his countenance, in his eyes, I could see a fear that someone might mistake Dallas or his teaching for the endgame, not the signposts he meant them to be of his profound love of Jesus and his kingdom. I can't say much more or I'd run the risk of either hyperbole or sounding like what Dallas wanted greatly to avoid. Perhaps I could end with this: no human being taught me more about life in Jesus and his kingdom."
"My friend Dallas deserves the finest tribute I could give to anyone: he showed me so much more of Jesus, and helped me want to know his friend Jesus and depend upon him with everything I've got. I saw Dallas imitate Christ and depend on him when facing smart-aleck students, sticky family situations and circumstances where I knew he disagreed with what was going on. Salt and light, love and power. Thank you, Jesus."
"Dallas Willard loved to say that for those who are living fully in the Kingdom of God, this world is a perfectly safe place in which to live. The news of his death this morning grabbed that beautiful truth and shook it vigorously. The world, at least for a moment, seems less safe with Dallas not here. I sense a vulnerability. His captivating and enthralling vision of our life with God dismantled and rebuilt my understanding of God and His ways. He taught me to how to believe in God again. Dallas spoke about our life with God in a manner that often made me laugh with joy, thinking to myself, 'It's all true, isn't it? There really is a God and He is wonderful!' I don't want to lose that. I heard Dallas say recently that some people will die and it will be a while before they realize they are dead. That is vintage Dallas. Eternity is real and it has already begun. He lived this. He once wrote, 'You are an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God's great universe.' I cling to this truth today. But for now—in this moment—the world seems less safe. I miss him."
"I was privileged to know and cherish the friendship of Dallas Willard…. I am grateful for the breadth of his wisdom, the quick flash of his humor, his sharp intellect. Whether we were talking about Kierkegaard, Bonhoeffer or some lighter topic, he constantly encouraged me. He spoke well of my work, helped me to believe and trust in Jesus Christ and his promises."
"I have had the delightful privilege of getting to know Dallas Willard through many of the authors we have published, particularly in IVP's Formatio line. James Bryan Smith has shared with me of how Dallas would encourage him not to reference him so much, saying, 'If it was any good, it did not come from me, but from the Holy Spirit, so consider it public domain.' Todd Hunter likewise told me how Dallas encouraged him to run with many ideas that Dallas had seeded in him. Alongside the encouragement from Dallas came a gentle guidance. Keith Meyer has often recalled the message he received from Dallas after we had sent a book contract: 'Keith, just remember, you are the donkey pulling the Jesus cart.' So thank you to James Bryan Smith, Richard Foster, Nathan Foster, Gary Moon, Kent Carlson, Mike Lueken, Todd Hunter, Mindy Caliguire, Keith Meyer, Gayle Beebe, Glandion Carney, Emilie Griffin and Jan Johnson for giving me glimpses into what it is like to do life in companionship with Dallas. Dallas Willard was a person who repeatedly gave himself (even when it meant sidelining his own projects) to invest in the lives of others."