The Importance of Christian Disciplines
1 Tim 4:7 “Train yourselves to be godly…”
God is very real and knowable. Christians who faithfully practice the basic spiritual disciplines of the Christian life experience a real and growing relationship with God. A spiritual discipline is a habit that when practiced faithfully produces transformation and spiritual fruit. Paul encourages Timothy to “train” in godliness. The exercises to train in godliness are the spiritual disciplines. Here are seven basic disciplines with some tips for more fruitful “training”.
Description of the Christian Disciplines and some ideas to implement them in your life.
1. Bible reading. God blesses those who faithfully read and apply His word (Joshua 1:8, James 1:25). Reading God’s word will strengthen your faith and help you mature (Rom 10:17, 1 Peter 2:2). Your ability to discern truth will grow as a result of having God’s word in your mind (Heb 5:13-14) and your ability to resist sin by having God’s word in your heart (Ps 119:9-11). Some tips for more effective Bible reading:
a. Ask God to give you understanding.
b. Be consistent. Accountability and having a plan help with consistency.
c. Be a student – Underline passages, take notes, ask questions.
d. Meditate – take a verse from your daily reading and go over it in your mind throughout the day.
2. Prayer. Prayer is communicating with God in our words or thoughts. It is our opportunity to “co-labor” with God by seeking His will, praying about circumstances and events, and trusting Him for results. We are taught to pray giving honor and adoration, asking for our daily needs, and for deliverance from temptation in Luke 11:2-4. We are taught to be persistent in prayer in Luke 9:9-13. Some tips for more effective prayer times:
a. Set aside a regular time and place for focused prayer
b. Keep a list of things you are praying about.
c. Commit to praying with others in a group setting.
d. Learn to seek God’s face – growing in your relationship with Him – as well as seeking His hand – asking for His help or provision.
e. Learn to pray without ceasing by learning to maintain a constant conversation with God throughout your day.
f. Pray scripture verses. Take a verse and pray it to God making it personal.
3. Worship. Worship is an expression of love for God. Worship acknowledges God’s worth. We can worship God for who He is (His character) and what He has done (His mighty acts – Ps. 150:2). The ways we express worship may vary (singing, lifting up hands, prayers, kneeling, etc) but true worship is about God and for God. Worship is more than a Sunday morning religious experience. It is a relationship and it’s a lifestyle. Thoughts about worship:
a. Think of living your life for an audience of ONE. Being a true worshipper means living a life focused on pleasing God.
b. Throughout the week give God praise how He reveals himself.
c. Listen to worship music during the week. Hum or sing along.
d. Approach your weekly church worship service with the attitude of offering to God a pleasing sacrifice.
4. Giving. The use of our money and resources is a basic test of our stewardship (Luke 16:10-11). It is also a test of our trust in God. The place to begin in our stewardship of money is with the tithe of all our increase (Malachi 3:9-11). God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7).
5. Gathering. Gathering is the habit of meeting with other believers for fellowship, encouragement, spiritual training and serving. We are encouraged to not neglect the habit of gathering (Heb 10:24-25). We learn that it is in the church gathered together, called the body of Christ, that God has put together every part perfectly to help the entire body grow. As we gather, others contribute their God-given gifts helping us to mature and we contribute our gifts to help others grow (Eph 4:16). Thoughts about gathering:
a. Gather together for worship with your local church; gather in a small group to build healthy relationships with others; gather with the larger body of Christ (other churches) for a witness to the world.
b. Love one another. (Mark 12:31, John 15:17)
c. Pursue unity. (2 Cor 13:11, Phil 2:2, 1 Peter 3:8, John 17:21-23)
6. Seeking Wisdom. Wisdom is knowing the potential outcomes of our actions and choosing the best way to go. We are encouraged to seek wisdom like searching for lost money or hidden treasure. True wisdom begins with the reverent fear of God. Wisdom comes from God and by it we will know how to find the right course of action every time (Prov 2:2-9). If anyone lacks wisdom, he or she is encouraged to ask God who gives it generously but they are cautioned to ask in faith (James 1:5-8). Ways to seek wisdom:
a. Read God’s word. God’s word is wisdom and a light to our path.
b. Read a chapter of Proverbs a day. The book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings.
c. Seek godly counsel for decisions. Talk to your pastor, spiritual mentor, or someone who can give you godly advice. Be careful to not seek advice that you “want to hear” or that just supports the decision you have already made.
d. If there are character qualities or talents you want to develop in your life, seek someone who demonstrates those abilities for mentoring.
7. Self-Examination/Confession. Psalm 139:23-24 reads: “Search me O God..see if there is any offensive way in me”. When we examine ourselves, we are asking God to reveal any ways in us that are sinful so that we can confess and repent. Confession is agreeing with God that we have sinned and repentance is turning from those ways. When we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgives us and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Ideas to implement self-examination and confession:
a. Journaling is a good way to regularly examine your life.
b. Confess your sins quickly.
c. Confess your sins to a trusted godly person (James 5:16)
d. Considering that we will all stand before Christ and give account for the things we have done, it’s a good idea to keep examining ourselves to root out any wicked ways (2 Cor 5:10).
Spiritual transformation is not a matter of trying harder. It is a matter of training. Paul writes to the church at Corinth: “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”. Train yourself to be godly through the faithful practice of the spiritual disciplines.
For further reading or study:
The Life You’ve Always Wanted – Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by John Ortberg
Celebration of Discipline – The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J Foster