When you hear the word “disciplines”, it often refers to the practices that help to strengthen our faith and grow closer to God. Discipline is typically associated with the act of conditioning oneself through sacrifice. It typically involves giving up something we love or are accustomed to. The Bible emphasizes spiritual discipline as a means of instructing us in the way we should go. We can expect to receive discipline as children of God according to Hebrews 12:5-11.
Discipline is highlighted in Timothy 4:7, where Paul tells Timothy to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness”. The Greek word “gymnazo”, which translates to “gymnastic” in English, is used to describe discipline. It means to train or become fit. Paul emphasizes that while physical training is valuable, it is godliness that has value in all things. Like athletes who discipline themselves to strengthen their physical abilities, we also need to discipline ourselves to strengthen our souls for the Lord.
The Bible provides numerous examples of how to grow spiritually. These practices have been collectively named “spiritual disciplines.” By engaging in practices such as prayer, fasting, meditation, and scripture study, we can condition ourselves to become more like Christ and grow in our relationship with God.
What Are Spiritual Disciplines?
Spiritual disciplines are a set of practices that aim to bring us closer to God. They help us become more holy. These practices are not just about taking action. Instead, they’re about cultivating specific behaviors and habits. Rather than relying on strict rules to guide our actions, spiritual disciplines encourage us to change our perspectives and habits to recognize right and wrong and act accordingly instinctively.
By engaging in spiritual disciplines, we learn to prioritize our relationship with God and others over our own needs and desires. We resist the temptation to indulge in sin and selfishness. These practices can take many forms. This includes prayer, meditation, fasting, service, and more. However, all are aimed at helping us grow in our faith and become more like Christ.
What Are the Origins of Spiritual Disciplines?
There is no standardized list of spiritual disciplines like the Ten Commandments that are clearly laid out in the Bible. The concept of spiritual disciplines was first developed by the early Catholic and Orthodox churches. They did this to strengthen their followers’ spirits and draw them closer to the Lord.
The various denominations and churches have different spiritual disciplines tailored to their teachings and practices. Therefore, you may find different numbers and types depending on where you look for spiritual disciplines.
If you are interested in examples of spiritual disciplines, we have compiled a list of both abstaining and engaging disciplines that can help you deepen your relationship with God and his people:
The spiritual discipline of fasting may seem unusual, as it involves abstaining from food. However, the purpose of fasting is not to deprive ourselves of nourishment, but rather to deepen our spirituality. By fasting, we learn to exercise self-control over our hunger and other impulses. These impulses may hinder our spiritual growth. Fasting can also help us to focus and think more clearly. This enables us to be more attentive to the Lord and those around us.
The goal of fasting is not to impose our will on God, but to align our will with His. If you struggle with fasting, eating fish can help you feel full and reduce the temptation to eat more. Interestingly, Jesus has a connection to fish, as seen in the ichthys symbol. This allowed early Christians to identify each other as believers without using words.
The seventh day of creation, as described in Genesis 2:3, is known as the Sabbath day. This is a day of rest. In today’s fast-paced world, it is essential to have the discipline to take a break and rest. This is what the Lord intended. While God acknowledges the importance of rest, we must not overindulge in it. As Jesus taught, the need to assist others does not take a break, so it is crucial to be available to those who are important to us, even on Sundays.
Attaining solitude may be challenging for most individuals, as it might seem like it isolates us from our loved ones. However, it is a means to escape the noise and distractions in our daily lives and focus more on the Lord. Solitude is not about being alone, but about creating a moment with God, praying, talking, and embracing His presence.
Moreover, it is not necessary to be physically alone to achieve solitude. Choose a specific place and time to be alone with God in a serene environment. It could be a room in your house, your church or a peaceful outdoor location where you can gather your thoughts.
Allocating at least two hours each month to spend in solitude with God is an excellent way to strengthen your spiritual discipline. Solitude is also considered a discipline that can enhance other disciplines.
Confession, also referred to as repentance, is a way to come clean to God in private, with a trusted confidante, or publicly. Any form of confession and apology is accepted by God, even if there is nobody present to hear it. Although Jesus was sinless, confession is still essential. Without his sacrifice, we wouldn’t have access to God’s grace and forgiveness. Although sin is an inherent part of being human, asking for God’s forgiveness is crucial to strengthen our relationship with Him.
Growing as a follower of God without prayer is not possible. Even though believing in God without praying is possible, your relationship with Him may become dormant and stagnant. Prayer is how we communicate with God, sharing our thoughts with Him and listening to His guidance. Jesus humbly taught us how to pray, as seen in Matthew 6:5-6. In Luke 11:9-13, we learn that God is like a compassionate father who provides us with good and wholesome gifts when we ask for them. Therefore, praying with selflessness, gratitude and persistence is crucial to keep exchanging thoughts and answers with God.
We often consider fellowship merely socializing with friends and family. However, it is intended to be much more profound. However, true fellowship is not haphazard. It involves gathering believers who revel in the glory of the Lord together. We all require companions who worship the Lord in harmony to maintain a robust faith. Jesus lived in eternal fellowship with God and with His disciples, providing the foundation for our present-day fellowship with God.
People often assume that worshiping at church is the same as worshiping alone. However, there is much more to it than that. Worship can take place anywhere — whether in a church or in the comfort of our homes — as long as there is a reason to worship. When we worship God, we acknowledge His goodness, righteousness and worthiness. To worship God means to appreciate all of His achievements. Essentially, worship is centered on God’s immeasurable value.
Colossians 3:23-24 teaches us that we all serve the Lord. When we work, our purpose should be to serve God and not just to please our bosses. God recognizes our hard work and rewards us generously. To be humble before the Lord, we must act as His servants. Jesus is a perfect example of someone who served God wholeheartedly. He demonstrated that true greatness lies in serving others and putting their needs before ours.
How Can You Have More Spiritual Discipline?
It may seem like a daunting task to remember and practice all the different spiritual disciplines. However, we don’t recommend that approach. Embracing what is good doesn’t require memorizing all the disciplines, much like how following the Bible doesn’t require knowing every word. Here are some suggestions for practicing spiritual discipline:
First, you can choose one or two disciplines that you enjoy and incorporate them into your life. Whether you find God through prayer or foster fellowship among friends, each discipline can lead you to become a more authentic person. The question is not whether you can be a good person, but rather in what ways you can be a good person.
Second, you can continue to live as you do now, but make decisions that align with the Lord’s teachings. Help others, be charitable, forgive, and reach out to family so they don’t feel abandoned. Attending church can also provide inspiration. If you manage a church, you can teach others about spiritual discipline.
Third, you can identify areas in your life that need improvement, such as your attitude towards others, your relationship with your family, or a habit of procrastination. Find a discipline that can help you overcome those issues and bring you closer to God. Ultimately, the answers to your questions can be found in the Bible.
Go Beyond Spiritual Discipline
Spiritual disciplines are valuable practices that can strengthen your soul and enhance your relationship with the Lord. Discipline, in any shape or form, necessitates dedication and sacrifice. After all is said and done, your path to God will be more evident than ever before.
If you’re a church leader, though, your congregation is also a top concern. How can you instill spiritual discipline in them? The DonorWerx framework can assist by showing you how to improve donor engagement. This will also help build discipline.