"For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline."
2 Timothy 1:7
As the New Year begins, so do the dreaded resolutions. You know, the promises we make ourselves that last for 1 month or so. Most people have a goal to lose weight, become more minimalistic, or become debt free. As Christians, we should think about New Year's resolutions differently. Resolutions are generally us focused or world focused, but as Christians, our goals should always be God-focused. Today I'm going to give you 4 steps to becoming more disciplined, from the Christian perspective.
1. We must use Self-Control
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. "
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Discipline requires denial. To be disciplined, we must deny ourselves and yield to the Lord desires. We live in such a microwave society. We should have everything when we want it and fast. We very rarely deny ourselves. Self-Control is something that I have struggled with. Even now, I have chosen to give up a few things in a quest to become more disciplined and let me tell you...I'm struggling. I mean I'm really struggling. I don't ever really deny myself. I fast every once in a while but most of the time I indulge in the things that I want. I have started to deny myself and my flesh doesn't like it. But, the Bible says that when we are weak, then Christ is glorified in us. I don't mind the struggle because I know that God will give me the strength to crucify my flesh time and time again. I will come to a place where I crave less of the thing that is causing me to struggle and more of the God who has already overcome my struggle.
I love Paul's words in verse 27, "No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave." Self- Control requires bringing your body into submission using the power and authority that Christ has given us. To give a visual, imagine a boxing ring- your spirit in one corner and your flesh in the other. Each time you deny your flesh you are 1 punch closer to a knockout. Each time you read your Bible or worship the Lord, you throw stronger punches, become agiler, and develop more stamina. Self-Control requires a commitment to a "no pain, no gain" mentality. The good news is that in the midst of the discomfort growth is found. It will get easier and you will become more spiritually mature as you lean on Christ more.
2. We must root our vision in Christ
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." Colossians 3:1-4
The reason we fail time and time again is that our vision is not rooted in Christ. Why do we want to be more disciplined? Is it a desire to serve the Lord better or ourselves? Is it because of what God thinks or what others think? We must envision why we want to become disciplined. Paul tells us to keep our hearts and minds "set above." Doing this keeps us from becoming prideful, world-conforming, and burnt out. That is why resolutions don't work for most people, especially Christians. We draw our strength from Christ, so when we leave him out of the equation, our motivation will always run out. We can't rely on our own strength to become disciplined. We need the supernatural strength that God gives us to overcome our flesh and walk in victory. If we pursue discipline fiercely for the Lord, we will be strengthened by the Lord. Isaiah 40:31 says" but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." We must be encouraged by this truth. When the struggle gets real, he will strengthen us. He is our motivation- To be like Christ is our goal.
3. We must train
"For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed." Hebrews 12:11-14
Discipline requires training. We must train ourselves in order to grow stronger. Now, just like no 2 people at the gym have the same training plan, also no 2 people will discipline themselves in the same way. Think about a time in your life in the past when you trained vigorously for something. Maybe it was training to be a parent, a teacher, or an athlete. I'm sure each group that I just mentioned will tell you that they are still training for their respective positions, however, they have been through the struggle and can handle certain situations better.
Remember I said that I am struggling to give up something in my life that I need to do without. Well, it's because I just started to train my body. Each day is like a workout, the more I go without, the stronger my spirit becomes. I am crucifying my flesh in order to live a life pleasing to God.
It's a Paul type of day. He reminds us, yet again, that "discipline seems painful, but later will yield...righteousness." Each day, I will get stronger and stronger. I just have to persevere. I need to remember the struggle so that I can reflect on just how much the Lord strengthened me. I have a plan, and I have told others about my plan for accountability. I get new mercies, new strength, and clearer perspective each day.
4. We must Fast
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:16-18
Many of us have heard the words," the bible doesn't say IF you fast, it says WHEN you fast" Fasting is supposed to be a regular discipline in our spiritual lives. It requires us to deny our flesh causing it to become weak. This results in us strengthening our spirit. A strong spirit leads to an ear sensitive to the Lord, while a strong flesh leads to an ear sensitive to the devil. If we fast regularly, we will find becoming disciplined easier. Regular fasting is a good discipline because it trains you to go without. So when you begin to discipline yourself in a different area, you are in a better position to be successful. Your body will become used to being deprived of what it wants, and your spirit is strong from all of the worship that you do as you fast. There are so many different ways to fast, but I recommend fasting in the area that you are trying to become more disciplined in. If you watch too much TV do a 24 hr or a 72 fast from television each week. If it is food, do the same with food. If you are new to fasting, try fasting together with someone else. You can both pray with each other about the areas that you want to be more disciplined in. That's the difference between a spiritual and a natural fast. When you fast naturally you are simply going without something. However, when you have a spiritually driven fast, you are praying, reading scripture, spending time with the Lord, and waiting in anticipation of what he will reveal to you.
I hope you feel more equipped as you start your goals for the New Year. Maybe you find you need to reassess your goals or begin fasting. Lean on the body of Christ in your weak moments, and praise God for his provision. Find verses to help you stay on track and post them in the places you traffic the most. What are your goals or verses for this year? Share in a comment below!
"Gracious God, Thank you for all of the blessings that you gave us last year. Help us to draw closer to you as week seek to be more disciplined in our daily lives. Give us strength when we are weak and help us to encourage others. In Jesus' Name, Amen"
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