Posted On December 20, 2021

Cost and Discipline in the Christian Life

by | Dec 20, 2021 | Featured, The Gospel and the Christian Life

Yes, you read it correctly. No, it is not a typo. I really did mean to write discipline. Now you may be thinking, “Great, first, he says the Christian life will cost something. Now, he says we need discipline.” I certainly affirm both of those things, but let us slow down a little bit. What do I mean when I say “discipline?”

My previous article attempted to show how the Christian walk will cost us our very lives. Maybe that was a little hard to swallow, but it is certainly true. If you thought that was the end of tough words, then brace yourself; there is more to come.

Just in case you are concerned, know that this short article is about spiritual discipline. Some readers may breathe a sigh of relief, whereas others might be confused. To help you, I will define what I mean by spiritual discipline; then, I will give you some examples of discipline before concluding thoughts about improving your spiritual discipline.

Defining Discipline

Paul wrote about discipline in our spiritual walk (1 Cor. 9:25; 1 Tim. 2:1-7). We must run to earn the prize (1 Cor. 9:24). That will take hard work and self-discipline. Such discipline looks like a man dedicating himself to prayer or a woman ensuring that she spends enough profitable time in the Word of God.

Self-discipline is what we need for anything. We need to wash the dishes; well, we have to get up and say, “I am going to do it.” When we need to go to work or school, we have to say, “I will go and do it actively.” Without self-discipline, we will crumple up and do nothing.

But self-discipline does not merely motivate us to get to work and get it done. Self-discipline goes far beyond that. Self-discipline keeps us focused on what we have to do. It makes us get up every morning, even though we want to stay in bed. It ensures that we live effectively instead of in a mess. We all express self-discipline in some measure throughout every day.

If this is everyday life, it should be more for our spiritual lives. We have given everything to Jesus, but that is only the start. The rest of life is a continually self-disciplined march towards Heaven, paved by the enabling grace of the Holy Spirit.

You might agree, but you might ask, what is the point? Donald Whitney wrote a book on spiritual disciplines where he illustrated a wonderful answer. He pictures a young boy who does not want to attend his guitar lesson. One day he is shown what he would become in the future as an extremely well-accomplished guitarist. Knowing this, he was motivated to work hard at practicing the guitar.

We, knowing our heavenly perfection, have great motivation. We know that we will perfectly reflect the image of Christ in Heaven, but we must begin in this life (Rom. 8:29).

What does that take? It takes all the resources that God has given and calls us to. We then cultivate a spiritual walk through the self-discipline of those gifts. But what exactly are these disciplines? Below, I have inexhaustibly listed a few disciplines.

Examples of Disciplines

The disciplines are easy to identify. We just need to ask ourselves: “What keeps our spiritual lives healthy?” When we answer this, we come to answers such as prayer, Scripture reading, listening to good preaching and teaching, and corporate worship. Spiritual disciplines are the things that fuel our living faith. We cannot live without food and water, so likewise, we cannot live spiritually without worship and God’s Word. They are the lifeblood that causes our souls to soar in high communion with God.

How To Grow in Spiritual Discipline

Knowing some of the spiritual disciplines, we then consider how to exercise those disciplines? The answer is simple: just like you exercise anything else. You go out and do it. When somebody wants to be fit, they work out to that end. As Christians, we look at the example of Christ and say, “I want to be like that.” So, we discipline ourselves with Him as our model.

You may see Jesus praying on mountain tops all night, being exhausted yet finding time for people, and even preaching for many hours. The temptation is to say, “I know I need discipline, and I know Jesus is my model; therefore, I will do exactly as Jesus did.” However, this is not quite right.

When somebody does physical exercise, they do not start off with the heaviest weight. You cannot take the heaviest weight, begin your sets, and look like Mr. Universe just like that. You have to start small and slowly (excruciatingly) make your way up.

If you want to exercise spiritual discipline, then it is the same. You cannot simply wander up to the nearest mountain and pray all night just because you decided to. You have to start out small. You know that lengthy (meaningful) prayer is the goal, but you cannot get there just because you decided to. You need to learn to pray, learn to rely on God, learn to be thankful. But that starts off small and grows.

The same is for all your disciplines. Start off reading one chapter of Scripture a day, then in time, move on to two chapters when you feel able, and keep pressing yourself with discipline to do better by grace. Eventually, you will be able to meaningfully pray for longer, profitably read from the Scriptures for lengthy periods, worship in church for extended times, and many other things.

Are you ready for some self-discipline? You know what it is and how to start doing it. It is hard work; for sure, it is hard work. But oh, how wonderful will it be when we get to Heaven. Think about how it will be as you look back on your grace-centered life and see how the Lord guided you in self-discipline every day on the way to Heaven.

Do you need one more anecdote to help you see this? OK then. What are your hobbies? What is your work? What have you studied in your life? You began these things as well as a beginner. Look at where your hard work paid off and how you have become better. That is what it will be like in Heaven as God shows you how He sanctified you through spiritual disciplines.

One final thought. If you are feeling the fire now, make sure you cultivate it. Do not burn it all out at the beginning. Cultivate it for the rest of your life and keep that flame ever burning within you, constantly letting it blaze through every aspect of your life.

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