What is Spiritual Discipline?

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Discipline: training to act in accordance with rules; an activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill.

To some, this might sound like a not-so-fun idea that requires a lot of commitment and energy. Discipline is hard work. But how does discipline play into our lives as followers of Christ? What is meant by this idea of spiritual discipline? How does that term sit with you? Is this something you practice or put off as unimportant or frankly just too time consuming?

However you may feel about it, it makes sense to feel a certain weight to the idea of spiritual discipline. We’ve all been there. I’ve found myself in seasons of life where spiritual discipline such as prayer and reading His word sounds fulfilling and rewarding. However, I’ve most definitely had seasons where quiet time is the last priority on my to-do list and prayer is simply forgotten. Which season do you think led me closer to Christ and filled my spirit with more of Him and less of me? 

If our goal is Christlikeness, the Bible tells us that spiritual discipline is necessary. 1 Timothy 4:7 says, "discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness”. We understand that discipline is the work required to achieve a certain outcome, but how does this concept fit in our lives, spiritually? Just like any other kind of discipline, spiritual discipline is the hard work we do to pursue holiness and Christlikeness. Of course, we know it's only by God's grace that we are anything (1 Corinthians 15:10), but consider this: discipline is God's method for his work of grace in the lives of his people. It certainly doesn't depend on what we do and there might even be seasons where we discipline ourselves yet still struggle with sin, face temptation and even battle apathy. But, discipline places us in a posture for God's grace to work in our lives. Yes, there will be seasons where discipline is difficult and others where it is life giving, but the importance of forming habits of spiritual discipline is that it enables us to be changed by Him. Not only does it enable us to be changed by Him, but it would be foolish to expect to see transformation if we aren't simply being obedient to what he says. We don't expect to be healthy and fit by sitting at home and eating junk food. Why would we expect to look more like Christ without pursuing Him faithfully and with discipline? 

So, what do we do? How can we discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness?

 1. Prayer

Actively and persistently communicating with God is an act of spiritual discipline. When we call on His name with thanksgiving or request, God delights in us. In fact, Philippians 4:6 tells us that with thanksgiving we shall make our requests known to God. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Take today to really practice prayer. Pray on your commute to work or the grocery store. Pray when you wake up and lay your head down to sleep. Pray while you're preparing dinner this evening. Carve out time to actively pray. It can be as simple as talking to God about your day.

 

2. Read His Word

Taking time to be still and sit in God’s word prepares our hearts and minds for our day. It equips us to be more like Christ and less of this world. 2 Timothy 3:15-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

 

3. Meditation 

When we read His word, we should mediate practice meditating in it. In fact, Psalm 1:2 tells us to delight in his law. "But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night."


4. Memorization 

In Psalm 119:11 the Psalmist declares His dedication to God and His word. 

"With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You."

God's word is hidden in his heart. Otherwise, he keeps His word close and inside of Him so that He may not ever forget it. Take time to memorize scripture today. Cling onto it.

 

“Godly habits are initiated, carried on, and matured through the sanctifying work of the Spirit who indwells us. They are the fruit of the Spirit, but they are worked out in our lives—not as erratic psychological and sudden impulses, but growing, settled dispositions and attitudes, showing forth and leading to the transformation of character.” - https://bible.org/seriespage/9-habits-leading-christlikeness