Last week, I wrote about Dependent Discipline and the need we have to examine the “why” in regards to our desire to be disciplined in various areas of our lives. We cannot pursue discipline as an end in itself, but we must seek to be fully dependent on the Lord so that He might be exalted and glorified. Once we have examined the “why”, it is still important to ask the “how”. In fact, over the years of ministry, a common question that other women have asked me (and one I have asked myself more times than I can count) is, “How do I pursue greater self-discipline in my daily life?”
Maybe this is something you have been mulling over in your own head, a question you have been thinking about, or a prayer that has been frequently on your lips. The beginning of a new year tends to create a level of introspection as we make new resolutions in hopes that it will change what we know needs to look different. But resolutions, historically, are usually broken by now, and the habits we have walked in from the previous year are often back in full swing. We need more than a resolution on a piece of paper. We need a heart change, wrought by the Word of God and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, that gives way to a “putting off” and a “putting on”. And we need real people to come alongside of us to walk Heavenward together. We need accountability and encouragement. We need our church family and godly resources.
One such resource that has helped grow my own heart and life in daily discipline is “Shopping For Time: How to Do It All and Not Be Overwhelmed” by the Mahaney women. It’s not a new book, but it’s short and helpful. They encourage simple steps that, when taken one baby step after another, add up to pretty big steps over time.
-Get up early
-Sit at Jesus’s feet
-Plan/take personal retreats (think calendar and meal planning)
The exhortations that I read over fifteen years ago, to “be careful how I walk not as unwise but as wise” (Eph. 5:15), are still encouragements I seek to live by. They were a real blessing then and continue to bear fruit in my life now. By His grace, as I have learned to faithfully be disciplined in both getting up and sitting at Jesus’s feet in dependence on Him through His Word, discipline in those two areas has led to greater fruitfulness and self- control in other areas.
Of course, I can fall far short of what I am sharing with you and grow overwhelmed in the process. It’s easy to think that because we know the source of Living Water (John 4:14)….and we know the truth, can quote the truth, and encourage with the truth…that we are “okay” for the day. But the “buckets” called our lives are dry and the only way to replenish them is to daily dip them in the “well”, to abide in Christ through His Word. As John Piper puts it, “The human heart does not replenish itself with sleep. The body does, but not the heart…We replenish our hearts not with sleep, but with the Word of God and prayer.” Of course, that doesn’t mean that starting my day with Jesus automatically guarantees a day without pain or struggle. In fact, quite the opposite is likely to occur as Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). Not to mention that my own indwelling sin can make a mess out of things. But, as I go before the Word and have my mind renewed (Romans 12) and my heart humbled before the King of glory, it is much easier to see my sin, acknowledge it and repent of it. I am also able to see my circumstances rightly (as coming from the hand of God for my good and His glory) and I am able to give thanks and rejoice in situations that otherwise would have made me miserable.
What does this look like practically for me? Before I share, please note that this is what works for ME. Maybe you don’t have to “get up early” in order to pursue self-discipline. Maybe you have found a time to “sit at Jesus’s feet” that works best for you and does not take place before the sun has begun to rise. GO FOR IT! This post is meant to encourage your heart and give practical tips…not cause you to change a routine that already works great for you.
For me, no matter how hard I have tried, I have learned that I cannot roll out of bed and open my Bible. I just want to fall back asleep or I can’t remember what I just read. So I get out of bed, brush my teeth and jump on my elliptical. I might look at the news, listen to part of a podcast, or read a Challies article….just do what I can to get my mind and body going so that I am awake enough to sit at Jesus’s feet. I have also found the sweet gift of both breadth and depth when it comes to God’s Word. I am a huge fan of reading through the Bible each year…being reminded in big picture ways of the beauty and greatness of God! Usually it takes about 15 minutes reading through a plan each day (I do one that is just 5 days a week…so, if I miss a day, I can get caught up on the weekend). This year I am listening through the Bible using a Bible app called “Dwell”. It cost me $30 for the year but I felt it was worth it. That way, I can catch time “reading” in the car, during part of lunch break, and various other moments throughout my day. I am also a huge fan of study guides to aid in digging deeper into God’s Word. That is where the “meat” is found and my heart is renewed and changed…by pondering, meditating and really chewing truth over. This past fall I started working through Philippians using a study guide written by Keri Folmar. It’s been fantastic!
I am sure you could share your own practical tips, too, and there is much we could learn from each other! We are all in different seasons of life, with different demands and schedules. When my kids were younger and I was home with them, my morning routine looked different and nap time was when I had the sweetest time sitting at Jesus’s feet. There have been years when I have not read through the whole Bible…but chose to just focus on the New Testament, one chapter at a time, and bring some additional “depth” to the “breadth”. Consistency is the key. Just as we eat daily to give our bodies fuel to keep going, so too, we must daily feed on the Bread of Life if we are to keep our souls healthy. Oh, that our heart’s cry would echo the words of Jesus in Matthew 4:4:
“It is written: Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Sitting at Jesus’s feet is not always easy and may require getting up out of a comfortable bed sooner than we would like, but the gift to our own hearts and the impact it has on the lives around us is lasting. It is the “one thing” that is necessary, that will not be taken away from us (Luke 10:42). Amen!
(Next week, we’ll look at the benefits of planning as an aid in growing in self discipline)