July 30, 2012

Spiritual Discipline

You are a spiritual being and spiritual disciplines are the fuel for physical discipline and all the other disciplines in life. Your depth of character is determined by the spiritual disciplines you exercise in your life. More important than six-pack abs and a sculpted body is Christ-likeness. Is the character of Christ being built in your life? I know people who spend hours each day on the health of their body but less than 5 minutes on their spiritual character. They spend less than a few minutes every day growing in their spirit, and they wonder why they don’t really feel alive. They wonder why they feel like something is missing. It’s because they are a spiritual being, and they are neglecting their soul. You can have physical discipline in your life but still lead a shallow life with no depth because you’re not growing deep in your character. What you want is a deep and disciplined life.

Spiritual discipline also determines our direction in life. There are many promises in scripture that emphasize the benefits of spiritual disciplines. Psalm 1:3 tells us that the man who meditates on the Word day and night “is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” Notice the word ‘prosper’, because when we think of prospering, we usually think of financial gain, but that is not what it means here. In Hebrew, it literally means the ability to make wise decisions. This is saying that the spiritual discipline of meditating on God’s Word will give you the ability to make wise decisions. The key to success is wise decisions that propel you in the right direction. That means that spiritual disciplines determine my destiny.

The problem is, as we go about trying to put discipline into our life, especially the spiritual disciplines, we get it all wrong. We try to make a list of what we need to do. “I want to have my daily quiet time every day this year for 365 days, so I’m going to do that to please God. I want to memorize one scripture a week, so I’m going to check that one off. I’m going to do that every week. Then I’m going to pray for 20 minutes a day, 365 days this year. I’m going to check that one off.” We make this list of things that we are going to do, these spiritual disciplines that we are going to do for God. We try to do them in and of our own strength, and it doesn’t take very long for our willpower to run out, and we end in fatigue and failure. That’s why New Year’s resolutions never work. You see, the Christian life is not about following a set of rules; it’s about following a person, Jesus Christ. It’s not about checking off a list of things that you’re doing for God to gain His approval, it’s just about following God, and that’s what being a disciple is all about; someone who follows Christ.