How to Recover a Sense of Discipline

Since the birth of Christian, aka, kid number 3, the spiritual discipline of my life has been sporadic at best. I can easily justify it with midnight feedings, early wake-up calls, and 3 kids under 6 (or at least my wife could, though she’s managing her life much better than I right now). But I have found myself longing for a sense of discipline.

Not longing for some kind of a rules-based relationship with God so I can have a measuring stick for whether I’m doing a good job at being a Christian, but discipline. Discipline that honors God and lives in the middle of grace. Discipline that focuses my mind and heart. That’s what I want. So that’s what I’m going after, by God’s grace. Here are some steps to doing so I’m trying to implement in my life:

1. Whatever you do, do it in faith. The temptation when you engage in spiritual discipline is to emphasize the will. But it doesn’t have to be that way; in fact, if it is that way, our efforts are doomed to fail because our best efforts will run out of steam. Instead, we should focus on faith. We should swing our legs out of bed in belief that God wants to meet with us. We should fast in faith that Jesus is better. We should make the conscious effort to refocus on belief, rather than exclusively the will.

2. Accompany spiritual discipline with physical exercise. The gospel engages the whole person – mental, spiritual, and even physical. For me I know, when I am exercising physically it helps me tremendously in spiritual exercise, if for no other reason than it wakes me up and gets the blood pumping.

3. Set yourself up for success. If I’m going to try and read the Bible in the morning, I need to set it out and get it ready the night before. I may need to set the automatic timer on the coffee maker. I definitely need to go to bed early enough the night before in order. I need to do anything I can in advance to make it as easy and convenient as possible for me to be disciplined.

4. Be consistent. I’ve tried to set my alarm at a different time each day, according to what I had going on in the day. I would set the alarm for an hour or so before I needed to be somewhere or do something, and each day it was either a little earlier or a little later than the day before. It doesn’t work. When you choose to set your alarm for the same time, you establish a rythm in your body and it gets a little easier every day.

5. Be realistic. For me, that means scheduling a day a week for a break. If I know I can sleep a little later on Saturday or Sunday, it helps me on those difficult mornings.

What about you? Got anything to add to this list?

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10 Comments

  • Jana Kelley says:

    It sure helps to have someone striving for it with you. Glad I’ve got you.

  • Steve says:

    I think the discipline you are already demonstrating of loving your kids well will be the one that has the longest and greatest spiritual impact.

  • Chuck says:

    “Discipline” is as easy to abuse as it is to ignore. I agree with you that discipline has a vital role to play in the discipleship journey, and we should strive to cultivate it in healthy ways.

  • I would add accountability. Don’t go it alone unless you have to. And rarely do we have to.

  • Michael K. says:

    Good word, Deek. Very true.

  • Whit says:

    I’m really having trouble finding time to study and pray and also still exercise. Historically, I’ve only been able to do one or the other for any prolonged period of time, and that was before I got married. How do you find time for both while still investing in your family, writing and work?

  • Michael K. says:

    Whit – I agree; huge struggle. Here is what helps me specifically, when I’m able to do it (which admittedly isn’t all the time):

    1. I set out my clothes, IPod, and anything else I need to exercise in the morning so I don’t have to dig for it.
    2. I set my alarm for the same time every morning.
    3. I have a back door. That is, I know that my kids get up at 7 am, so I have to be done studying, exercising, and praying by then.
    4. If I sleep late, then I make the exercise suffer. I know what my back door is, so it might mean I only jog for 30 minutes instead of 40 or whatever.

    Hope that’s helpful.

  • HC says:

    midnight feedings, early wake-up calls, and 3 kids under 6 IS spiritual discipline! doing it as unto the Lord!

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