February 22, 2023 | Jeff Patton
Discipline: “Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.” – Merriam Webster Dictionary.
If I am sure of anything, it's that there are not many folks who like the word discipline nor the consistent energy it takes to live out discipline in our lives. Can I get an Amen? Oh, we love the results it brings, we know we need to be disciplined, we love how it makes us feel AFTER the fact—but to do something day in and day out over a long period of time simply goes against the grain of who we are as people. If I’m wrong about this for you, I apologize—but I know this to be 100% true of me!
Living a disciplined life in the areas that matter most is like a fish swimming upstream against the raging current. It’s not natural. It’s hard. As Dr. Howard Hendricks once said, “The problem with the Christian life is that it’s so daily.”
And yet, the scriptures have much to say about both discipline and a lack of it. See if you can relate:
- “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” – Proverbs 12:1
- “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” – Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:27
- “My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” – Proverbs 3:11-12
- “Be hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” – Titus 1:8
- "A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls." – Proverbs 25:28
There is no doubt that God presents discipline as good and good for us. He knows we need it in order to experience life as He intended, and most importantly…to experience Him. Sure, we know about financial discipline, physical discipline, etc. But there is also such a thing as the spiritual disciplines.
Spiritual disciplines are those practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth. They are habits of devotion that have been practiced by God’s people that produce intimacy with God and growth in Christ-like maturity. They are activities. They are things you do. Some that the Bible speaks of are: prayer, fasting, worship, serving, learning, journaling, and yes—Bible Intake. The goal of any spiritual discipline is stated for us 1 Timothy 4:7 where it says, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness”. Put another way, we DO in order to BE. So rightly motivated, spiritual disciplines are things that we do to be with Jesus which make us, over time, more like Jesus.
Don Whitney, in his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, speaks to the importance of Bible Intake for Christ followers when he writes, “No Spiritual Discipline is more important than the intake of God’s Word. Nothing can substitute for it.”
I have concluded that many of us (me included) love the idea of being more like Christ without the discipline it takes to renew our minds and hearts. We love the results but hate the process. As much as I wish that laying my head on my bible at night would, through osmosis, get God’s word deep in my soul…it does not work. (Note: I may have tried it LOL)
The sad reality is that only 18% of Christians read the Bible daily. Often, when it is read, it’s read with the wrong motives or expectations. So, let me first lay out what I don’t mean when I speak about the spiritual discipline of Bible intake. Bible intake is:
- Not Bible jeopardy just to know more information
- Not what I call the "hallmark approach" to find my cute life saying for the day
- Not some kind of magic drug that is needed only in a life crisis simply because we don’t see the need for it every day
- Not the microwave approach that comes with an attitude of "what’s in it for me and how fast can I get it?"
Instead, Bible intake is about a discipline to intake God’s word consistently over time. It is time + effort = hard work because no one drifts into godliness. It is a long obedience in the same direction. It is us reading to learn God not just know about Him. It is God on God—autobiographical. It is God speaking. It is us reading the scriptures with a heart and attentiveness to obey because our motto is—like the Puritans—“Always Changing.”
I’m old enough to have lived in the era when Michael Jordan was king in the sports world. Everyone wanted to be like Mike, so much so that Nike made an international branding campaign saying just that: “Be Like Mike." Yes, every athlete wanted to "Be like Mike," but no one wanted to do the things off the court when no one was looking in order to be like Mike on the court when everyone was looking. The Reason? Jordan’s off-season training regimen was legendary. Jordan did what no one else did to be what no one else was when the lights turned on. He did it all for basketball. He disciplined himself in a radical way for a game. A game which will never be mentioned in eternity.
For us as blood-bought children of the King of Kings, we are to discipline ourselves to "Be like Christ." It’s for way more than a game, that’s for sure. It’s for God’s glory. It’s for a life that flourishes. It’s for deep joy. It’s for—as Paul writes in Ephesians 4:1—“I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called." God is knowable and we get to know Him by His word.
Click here to learn more about the Bible reading initiative: Read with Me thru the Bible. We have guides and plans for all ages! The plan begins March 1st.