Laziness comes pretty naturally to human beings, especially to those of us in the West who tend to live in such affluent prosperity. We live in a day and age where we don’t have to work very hard. We have washing machines, dish washers, computers, cars, and the list goes on and on. We live in an age of incredible ease and comfort. So the idea of hard work is something must of us are allergic to, especially when it comes to our spiritual lives. The idea of training and working hard to be like Christ makes us cringe. We want holiness to be easy for us. We expect to be like Christ overnight. We want to transform into Jesus as fast as cooking a microwavable bag of popcorn. However, our spiritual lives do not work that way. Jay Adams writes in his book Godliness Through Discipline,
“The word discipline has disappeared from our minds, our mouths, our pulpits, and our culture. We hardly know what discipline means in modern American society. And yet, there is no other way to attain godliness; discipline is the path to godliness.”
Discipline Ourselves for Godliness
1 Timothy 4:7 tells us to “discipline ourselves for godliness”. Discipline can seem so cold and legalistic. Discipline either makes us think of our Mom grabbing the belt for a spanking or monotonous scale playing on the piano for hours on end. Discipline is necessary for the Christian life, yet it is something we avoid. We see it as burdensome and we do not see it as a liberating joy.
The best book on Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney. It is a book I recommend to anyone who is looking to grow in their faith. It is theological, historical, and above all extremely practical. In that book he lists out 10 Spiritual Disciplines.
- Bible Intake
- Silence and Solitude
Strength in Some, Weakness in Others
Each of us tend to be stronger in some of the disciplines than others. Some disciplines come much more naturally to us than others. For example, Bible Intake and Silence & Solitude come much more naturally than Fasting or Stewardship. However we must seek to grow in discipline even in the areas where we may be weak. Just because Bible Intake is tougher for some than others, it does not mean that we can neglect it (although it is one of the most important of the disciplines). Identify the areas that you are weak and seek to grow in them in the coming year.
Resolve to Grow Spiritually
I love new years and this time of year. We by nature almost seem to go into a state of reflection. We think about our highs and lows, our successes and our failures. Many begin to make resolutions this time of year. I think it is a great practice, although there are some potential dangers such as legalism, pride, and shame. People tend to make resolutions for all sorts of things. Some resolve to go to the gym, quit smoking, or eat healthier. Although all those resolutions can be good, lets not neglect the most important area of our lives, our spiritual maturity.
How about this year we resolve to grow in godliness? We need to really seek after the Lord this year. Maybe we need to create a new habit or discipline for godliness. Maybe we need to read the Bible every day, spend nightly time in prayer, or read more edifying books. Maybe you need to be more active in serving in your church or sharing the Gospel with others regularly. I’m not sure where in your life God is leading you to discipline yourself for godliness, but I do know this – godliness will not happen to you by accident. The Spirit of God sanctifies us through our efforts and diligence. As Paul writes in Philippians 2:12, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure”. Our Christian Maturity is a beautiful combination of God’s divine work through our human efforts. Resolve to grow spiritually this year and discipline yourself for godliness.
Better Than a Bag of Popcorn
So Holiness takes time and it takes effort. It is not instantaneous or over night. However in the grind of disciplining ourselves for godliness, God teaches us to depend daily on his empowering spirit and continue to draw on his restorative grace. As we spend our lives growing in godliness and in the spiritual disciplines we will look over the course of our lives and see that God was faithful to grow us and mature us as he has promised. We will see the beauty of his slow cooked image in our lives and his glory will be evident. Isn't that much more glorious than a two minute bag of popcorn?