Recently I was asked to speak at a Men’s “Advance” (I refuse to acknowledge that we should “retreat”) on the topic of Spiritual Disciplines. Based on the material from that talk, I have developed a several-part series that explores “spiritual disciplines” — what they are, why we need them, how to implement them in our lives, and what the consequences will be if we choose not to develop spiritual disciplines in an ever-increasing measure.
This article is the first in the series and is titled “What is Discipline?“
Is Discipline the same as Punishment?
When the word “discipline” is mentioned, what images come to your mind? What do you immediately think about?
If you are like me, one of the first thoughts in my mind when I think of “discipline” is “punishment.” In fact, when I looked up “discipline” in the dictionary, the third definition was “punishment inflicted by way of correction.”
Growing up, I can remember very well what it meant to be disciplined, at school and at home. It went something like this: if you break a rule, there is a consequence, and that consequence always was unpleasant and almost always involved pain. So, the word discipline for me doesn’t always conjure up the most rewarding of images. I literally chuckled to myself when I read that definition, thinking about what it must be like for some non-Christians to hear a preacher urge them to “engage in spiritual disciplines.” (Sometimes, the language we use in the church without enough explanation probably can cause some pretty strange thoughts in people’s minds.)
Discipline in Spiritual Matters is about Relationships
But “discipline” is not, in and of itself, negative. In fact, when speaking in terms of “spiritual disciplines” it is not negative at all. Rather, “discipline” as it relates to our spiritual lives means the development of habits relating to the choices that we make regarding what we do with our time and energy. It involves how we involve our minds and our hearts in our daily activities. It is about acting a certain way because we have been trained to act that way, even when we don’t feel like acting that way. It is about our priorities.
Spiritual disciplines lead us to make choices, form habits and develop priorities in our lives that enhance our understanding of who God is, determine God’s purposes for us, and keep us focused on Him even when we don’t feel like it.
Spiritual disciplines help us make wise choices in the moment, change how we speak to and work with others, direct how we love our wives and husbands, and impact how we raise our children.
The Bottom Line is Relationship Building
The bottom line is that spiritual disciplines are about moving us into deeper relationships with God and with others on behalf of God.
What’s Next …
What specifically constitutes a “spiritual discipline” and why we need to develop them in an ever-increasing measure are the topics of my next post. . . .