24 Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. 25 Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away. 26 Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. 27 Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1Cor 9:24-27, HCSB)
23 He will die because there is no discipline, and be lost because of his great stupidity. (Prov 5:23, HCSB)
Download and listen to these in your car:
Are you a pretty good Christian? What does it take to become a really good one? How do you mess up less frequently? Practice. Habits. Disciplines. In the Christian world we talk about Spiritual Disciplines, or spiritual habits that we create to get us from who we are, to who we want to be. We call them by different names:
- Spiritual Disciplines
- Holy Habits
- Practice at Godliness
- Bridge Building
Passion is not enough. The heart wants to, but the person must be trained to follow. The Bible is full of people who wanted to follow God well, but who failed:
- King Saul compromised with good intentions over and over, finally giving up and choosing not to try to obey God and just rule from his own power and wisdom.
- Abraham followed God with lots of compromise too…but Abraham eventually grew to the point where God could ask him to give up his only son, and Abraham did it without hesitation.
- Peter and the other disciples all made commitments to follow Jesus to the point of death the night He was arrested. All of them were committed—and all of them failed in their commitments. But they all eventually did give their lives for Christ—they just needed more time and growth before they could follow Jesus to that level.
- Jesus struggled through obedience in the garden—praying and talking and sweating—He had struggles to get all of his human nature to obey God—and He WAS God!
Many of the men we think of as prodigies with special talents spent a TON of time developing those talents before putting them to the test. Expert musicians spent 4-8 hours a day playing their instrument, EVERY DAY. They are good because they practice! Athletes train. Olympic atheletes train at least 25 hours a week. Professional Athletes train 8-12 hours a day. They are professional for a reason…its their job to perform at the game. Soldiers train. They keep in shape and run realistic wartime scenarios to ensure that they don’t just know what to do, but that they will do it. The right behaviors become a reflex.
- Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s household for 40 years. No wonder he was a capable leader of the Israelites through the desert to the Promised Land.
- David killed bears and lions before he killed Goliath…that is where his confidence came from. He also became a competent king by watching Saul rule as his musician.
- Bill Gates spent over 10,000 hours working on programming languages before introducing Microsoft Windows to the world. He wasn’t so much a smart guy, as he was a smart guy who honed his techy skills long before anyone else did.
Definition of a Discipline:
Any activity I can do now, that will enable me to do one day what I cannot do now.
Passion won’t enable you to play the piano. It also takes practice.
The Goal: Greater Intimacy, Love & Obedience
The next year is all about discipline. Your mentor is going to be your coach on a strict training program that will whip you into better spiritual shape. To begin, I want to make sure you flex your spiritual muscles in a lot of different ways, so that we can find the best ways that you connect with God.
The personal side & importance in my life: (Patrick)
These are the practices that gave my faith a firm foundation when I had little knowledge to back it up…when I became a Christian at age 11, these disciplines helped give me:
- A personal relationship
- A knowledge and familiarity with the Bible
- Processing everything in life through conversation with God
These are the practices that kept my faith alive when it was being bombarded by facts and arguments and speculations about faith in school and seminary. They kept me from becoming legalistic, judgmental, and concerned only with my external performance as a Christian.
It’s like growing a watermelon:
Growth requires the right seed: Jesus
the right soil & water: disciplines
Getting Below the Surface of our Lives:
There’s only one thing wrong with this commercial—it says that we are not ourselves when we are hungry….when really, that angry person is us. A part of us that God wants to transform. We need to find ways to let God have all of our inner person and transform it. Did Jesus ever act “hangry” toward anyone? Did He have an inappropriate emotional outburst toward a sick person or beggar? No. He was in control of Himself. He had dealt with the inner person.
Don’t be deceived, we are not talking about living out the philosophy, “God helps those who help themselves.” Grace and effort are not opposites. Grace and earning are opposites. God doesn’t love you more if you are disciplined, or less if you are not. This is something you do for yourself—in response to the love and greatness of God. Spiritual Disciplines are a key tool to the BEST life. This is the WISE way to live. These disciplines place our lives in the best soil for the seed of the Holy Spirit to grow in our lives into a life fully-devoted to Jesus. What do we need for that to happen? Sensitivity to God’s voice.
Earth is crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees takes off his shoes.
The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.”
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning
God is present and active and speaking to us every moment of everyday. We need to improve our radio receptors to acquire the signal. We need to be MORE responsive to His guidance. We need to break down the mental barrier between the sacred and the secular, and see God in everything we do.
The image I constantly go back to is the picture of a sailboat. The winds of God’s Spirit are all around us, yet the current of the world has control of us and pushes us where it wishes as long as we fail to put up our sails and direct them to catch the wind.
The Danger of Disciplines:
The problem with disciplines is that EVERYONE must fight the tendency to let pride turn them into a way of earning God’s favor or appearing more spiritual than other people. This has been the problem for centuries, and it is what turns personal standards into church standards. It is what creates pride in us…and pride can cause what once brought us close to God to pull us away.
- It’s why the church began making policies about what to wear or what behavior was unacceptable:
- R rated movies, etc.
- I struggle with alcohol and have decided never to drink…so no one should drink.
- Confessing regularly to someone helps me, therefore every Christian is going to be required to confess regularly to the priests.
- I take Sundays off…and I judge you as not very spiritual because I see you working every day of the week.
Beware: You can become a Pharisee! What we need to understand is that where the Pharisees ended up spiritually, is the tendency that all serious Christians face and often succumb too. To become more and more disciplined in our behavior, and then to trade the spiritual benefit of those actions for a mentality of earning favor, judging others, and maintaining our super-spiritual façade. Jesus said it this way:
1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! 3 But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 “Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! 6 But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. 8 Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him. (Matt 6:1-8, HCSB)
Example: Look at what the Catholic church did with turning confession into a requirement, prayer into a babbling formula, and worship into recitation. They removed the life from spiritual discipline.
Disciplines are for our benefit. They are an issue of wisdom that we arrive at progressively in walking with God. Most new Christians and many immature Christians can’t see the value or are not ready for these steps of growth yet. Everyone needs a different mix of disciplines too.
When you miss a discipline, you should not feel guilt, but rather lack of a good thing. Guilt implies you’ve fallen into the trap of earning something. These are not requirements, these are the wise thing to do.
Back to the Basics:
oneChurch’s Ownership Disciplines: FOR EVERYONE
- Personal Time with God
- Investing and Inviting
- Worshipping and Serving
Helping Others Grow:
If you want to encourage others around you, your goal should be to get them involved in doing these ownership practices as a first step too!
What other spiritual disciplines could we discuss?
- Processing the message behind the movie
- In Marriage: Conversations and Date Night
- In Family: Devotions with my son
Key Question: What practices do you most need in your life right now