Spiritual Disciplines

<<helps to spirituality>>

Being self-disciplined and motivated in everyday things, such as eating habits and exercise, assists in developing the specific behaviours that produce spiritual characteristics, enabling growth in our relationship with the Lord and in godliness which will impact on our daily activity and future

Take personal responsibility for your spirituality by feeding your soul

ministry (1 Tim 4:7,8, 6;6,11). All discipline denies the present enjoyment of the easy option, choosing rather the surpassing, future long-term benefits of any desirable training regime (Jn 15:2,3,16; Heb 11:24-27, 12:2).

Spiritual maturity requires the deliberate choice and effort to turn away from what is comparatively worthless to embrace and incorporate into our Christian walk what will produce beneficial fruit, making a difference for His Kingdom. Our carnal self is our biggest challenge; Jesus was able to say “Satan has no hold over me” because He was fully aligned to God’s purposes and without sin (Jn 14:30).

Any spiritual exercise, while good, must not degenerate into a ritual of lifeless duty. It should be a means to attain a greater intimacy with God who is the source of life and who we choose to obey and make first in our lives (Mk 12:30). God promises those that earnestly search for Him, will find Him (2 Chr 15:15; Jer 29:12,13, 33:3; Mt 5:6, 7:7-11).

At salvation we are given a new nature yet the old sinful habits, thoughts and attitudes need to be continually put aside (considered as dead), being replaced with Godly ones as our minds are transformed by Christ (Rom 8:13,14, 12:2; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 5:24,25; Col 3:5-17; Heb 12:4-11). After being born again our lives should be undergoing a continual transition from the Kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of light by incorporating the various spiritual disciplines and important keys to spiritual growth (Jn 3:3,7; 2 Pet 3:18). Thus it is critical to get new believers established in the faith, replacing former bad habits and activities with those that are consistent with their new life in Christ and the important, non-negotiable areas of faith.

Just as running a physical race requires constant effort and self-denial living a victorious Christian life  demands similar motivation and dedication, and if we sin, we must repent and learn from these times, emerging humbler and wiser (1 Cor 9:24-27). Lasting benefit only comes from the consistent, ongoing dedication to maintain spiritual disciplines.  We

Anything of benefit requires effort – 1 Timothy 4:7

need to ‘push on’ in faith, believing there are greater levels of spirituality that can be reached as we apply ourselves (Phil 3:12-14). The Holy Spirit is our coach or mentor so we must having a listening ear to His voice and matching obedience to His directives.

Godly character is more important than ministry, as this sustains and safeguards our personal life so faithfully and consistently attend to such spiritual disciplines and honourable qualities so you will be effective and come into increasing wholeness (2 Pet 1:5-8). Spiritual growth increases our capacity to bring glory to God, which is the main reason for our existence, and should be the motivation for all we do, understanding it is God who works in us according to His good purpose (Mt 5:16; 1 Cor 10:31; Phil 2:13; Rev 4:11, 15:4).

Many activities can be utilized as spiritual disciplines in order to develop our Christian virtues. However, do not confuse the spiritual gifts, which are sovereignly given by the Holy Spirit with the fruit of the Spirit that are the result of our choosing to bring the natural body under restraint and live as directed by the Spirit (Gal 5:22,23). Here are

What can I do to improve my spiritual fitness?

some essential disciplines, beneficial habits, and ways of doing life plus character qualities we must develop to come closer to His design for us.

* We must read, study, meditate on and memorise the Bible’s unchanging spiritual truth as it is God’s instruction to us and is highly effective against Satan’s temptations (Ps 119:11; Mt 4:4,7,10; Eph 6:17; 2 Tim 3:16,17). Either the consistent application of its truth will bring us into victory or the world’s view will shape our thinking and we will we swayed by ungodly ideas. How can we live as God requires if we don’t know what He says?

* Prayer is expressing to God our heart’s desires for ourselves and intercession on behalf of others, together with gratitude (thanksgiving) for answers received (Eph 6:18; Phil 4:6; Col 4:12; 1 Thes 5:17,18).

* Praise is acknowledging His sovereignty over all, His infinitely loving and wise care for us even in trials when we don’t understand His reasoning (Ps 34:1; Rom 8:28).

* Fasting is the deliberate abstaining from some form of physical gratification to pursue a spiritual goal.

* Giving of our resources (time, energy, finance) to our church and other ministries (2 Cor 9:6-8).

* A retreat or personal stocktaking. Involve God in every aspect and decision of your life, replacing the independent self-life with dependence on Him through moment-by-moment submission of our lives and plans to His, He is Lord! (Prov 3:5-7).

* Meeting with other believers keeps our faith sharp as we challenge and hold each other accountable, adding value to their service through mentoring and encouraging (Prov 27:17; Heb 10:24,25).

* Reading, viewing or listening to the personal stories (or testimonies) of other Christians, both historical and contemporary.

Among the virtues or fruits of spiritual training are the following:

* Increasing worship. Worship is all about God and it reveals where our allegiance is (Ps 92:2; Mt 4:10; Heb 12:28). The frequency and depth of our worship will increase as we focus on our spiritual development.

* Submission. Through submitting to what will bring about the death of our self-life, by taking up our cross, we will find our purpose and destiny in Christ (Mt 16:24,25).

* Extending forgiveness to all who have sinned against us, just as God has freely forgiven us (Mt 6:12; Eph 4:32). When you have sinned, don’t make excuses but sort the issue out with God then any others involved. Always be motivated by the long-term.

* A servant heart. Just as Jesus served and glorified God, so we should not desire to be served but to minister the love of Christ to others (Mk 10:43-45; Jn 5:30, 13:14,15; 1 Pet 4:10).

* Obedience. Ensure you have a responsive heart that is quick to obey, living out the reality of entering into the freedom in Christ, victorious over the ‘world, the flesh and the devil’ – the culture without, our inner sinful nature and the forces of evil (2 Cor 10:4,5; Rev 12:11).

* Discernment. It is essential to guard the input into and the subsequent thoughts of our heart as this governs the direction of our life with the fruit being our words and actions (Prov 4:23) Live by the motto, if it is unbeneficial to spiritual growth, discard it.

* Humility ensures people don’t become judgmental.  Christ is our standard to aspire to so there is no room for us to compare ourselves to others or judge them (2 Cor 10:12). Own up to your mistakes, don’t make excuses.

* Resilience. When the going gets tough, don’t quit or resort to self-pity; never exclude God by going it alone for He is the solution (Gal 4:9, 6:9). Inner strength is developed by withstanding the opposition with faith in God – a confident optimism that with Christ you are a victor in spite of life’s challenges, for He has our best interests at heart (1 Pet 1:7; 1 Jn 5:4).

* Selflessness develops out of a realisation of what God has done for us and what He can do for others. Be outward focused and involved in the lives of others, being a witness as you let your light shine by making Christ known to those around (Mt 5:16).

* Increasing holiness, putting off the old way of doing life by saying ‘No’ to temptation, instead putting on the new until finally receiving a “Well done” from the Lord because you have been obedient to His voice (Mt 25:21; Eph 4:22,24; 1 Thes 5:22).

* Positive outlook. Growing Christians trust in the ‘father-heart’ of God and anticipate a great future. This enables them to view all demanding situations as character-building challenges and with the Holy Spirit’s enabling to be transformed into a character of immeasurable worth, being firmly grounded in God’s ways (Mt 7:24-27; Heb 6:19, 12:26-29).

* Forbearance helps people not to react to the irritations and pressures of life negatively. When a grain of sand becomes embedded within an oyster this shellfish responds in such a way that a pearl of great value is developed. Paul expressed it as ‘glorying in tribulations’ for they are the means of becoming more like Jesus (Rom 5:3-5, 8:29).

* Self-control. This is having the wisdom and strength of character to resist temptation (Jas 4:7,8).

* Declare the acts of God and speak out the truth about ourselves (Col 1:13,14; Rev 12:11).

Developing these powerful qualities into our lives reinforces our ability to position ourselves where we will be blessed and effective in His service.

While the testimony of others can be a catalyst to ignite and enthuse us, our faith must be based in the unchangeable Word of God and in Christ, the sustainer, to enable us to continue and not lose heart as we give ourselves as living sacrifices to Christ who gave His all for us (Jn 15:4,5,8). At all times Jesus is to be the one we look to, the central focus of our life. Run to complete the race He has planned for us, and run to win the prize (1 Cor 9:24; Phil 3:14; Heb 12:1-3).

See also: any of the disciplines mentioned above, armour (spiritual), character, Christianity, cross, daily walk, discipline, fruit (of the Spirit), growth, habits, motive/motivation, self-discipline, spiritual gifts, spiritual warfare, wilderness wanderings.