There is no shortage of people seeking to learn how to develop self-discipline. The problem is, that in their efforts to do so, most will start and then just give up and quit.
The excuses sound like: “This is just me, deal with it.” “I’m okay with how I am.” “God made me this way.” People accept and settle for things just the way they are, simply because it's the easy thing to do.
Well if you are tired of fitting into that category, and instead find yourself asking questions like:
- What is spiritual self-discipline?
- How do I become self-disciplined?
- How can I improve my self-discipline?
. . . then this post is for you! It's time to look at some self-discipline scriptures, and see how God has already empowered every Christian in this area.
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What is Self-Discipline?
Let's start by taking a look at the basic definition of self-discipline, and it's very close cousin, self-control.
The Webster’s dictionary defines them as follows:
- self–discipline: the correction or regulation of oneself for the sake of improvement
- self-control: restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires
Our society tends to associate self-discipline with athletes, celebrities, business owners, and the like. This is because they achieve a level of success that typically cannot be reached without a high level of self-discipline.
But how do we develop self-discipline as normal everyday people who don’t fit into those categories?
What Does the Bible Say About Self-Discipline?
As Christians, we don’t have the luxury of having the attitude that our non-Christian counterparts do when it comes to a lack of self-discipline. We can’t just say “this is how I am”, and move on. In fact, because of what the bible says about self-discipline, we actually have no excuses.
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Self-Discipline Comes From God
In his letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul wrote:
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (II Timothy 1:7 NIV)
When we give our lives to God, His Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us, and we receive divine power and help from above to do things that we couldn't do otherwise. That includes self-discipline.
In fact, in Galatians we are provided with a list of fruits that we will begin to exhibit as Christians, as we grow in our relationship with God, including self control:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galations 5:22-23)
As you can see, it is the Spirit of God within us, that gives us the ability to even practice true self-discipline and self-control. This is why the bible says:
For with God nothing shall be impossible. (Luke 1:37)
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Self-Discipline is a Learning Process
Although we have the Holy Spirit within us to help us develop self-discipline, it is still a learning process.
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (II Peter 1:3)
Through our knowledge of God (the bible), we have everything we need to live our Christian lives and be successful at it. But, we must learn God’s Word to get the knowledge, and to even know what areas he has called us to be disciplined in.
Paul said it best in his letter to the Philippians:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13)
He learned the discipline of contentment by the power of the Holy Spirit. Again, we can ONLY do these things by the strength that God gives us.
So often, I hear people ask 'why is self-discipline so difficult'? Self-discipline isn't easy, but we make it way more difficult than it has to be because we exclude God from the process. We sometimes have the mindset that we can make it on our own, and will only bring God in if things fail.
The truth is, things tend to fail because we try to do them without God. By doing this, we actually set ourselves up to fail, or at the very least, we set ourselves up to take the longer road to success.
How to Develop Self-Discipline in Any Area of Your Life
So we’ve got the power and strength of God within us to be self-disciplined, but how do we tap into that power and strength? How do we develop this Christian self-discipline and apply it in real life?
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Set Your Goal(s) and Commit it to God
Regardless of what area(s) of your life you are planning to work on, there must be a goal in sight. Here is another passage written by the Apostle Paul that expresses this all to well:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
Apart from it being one of the best examples of self-discipline in the bible, what I love most about this passage is the fact that Paul wrote this letter to the Philippian church at a point in his life when he had already attained so much ministry wise.
He had traveled the world preaching the gospel, established several churches, won thousands of souls to Christ, taught and developed many spiritual leaders, and even undergone several persecutions for the cause of Christ. Yet, his mindset at the time, was still to do more for God. He wasn’t concerned about what he had already accomplished. He was focused on what God still had left for him to do.
He actually wrote the book of Philippians from a prison cell! But, he didn't quit or throw in the towel. He was self-disciplined by the power of the Holy Spirit to continue his ministry even while in chains! He knew God had a calling on his life, and his goal was to continue the work of that calling until his dying day, despite any opposition that would come his way.
Like Paul, we too are called to press toward a goal in our spiritual journey, and in other aspects of our lives. In any pursuit of self-discipline, we must have a clear goal that drives us in times of struggle and opposition.
It doesn't matter if your goal is to work on your diet and lose weight, go back to school and get your degree, learn how to swim, build up your savings account, quit smoking, anger management, or to read through the bible in a year. As Christians, we are called to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit within us for the self-discipline to stay the course.
And when we commit our goals to God, that not only provides more motivation, but it helps to keep us focused as well.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. (Colossians 3:23)
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Stop Procrastinating and Get Started
We’ve all heard the saying that 'procrastination is the thief of time', because time is the one thing we can never get back once its gone.
Let's look at a few scriptures on this subject:
- All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23
- Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. Proverbs 27:1
- As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. John 9:4
- Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning. Luke 12:35
- Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16
Success has never come simply by talking about it. We all have plans, goals, and dreams for ourselves. But what separates those who are actually successful from those who aren’t, is their ability to turn those plans, goals and dreams into action.
When it comes to spiritual goals, this is even more true. It's those times where you don’t want to go to church, don’t want to have devotions, don’t want to forgive, and don’t want to pray, that we need to be the most diligent. When we push through in those instances, it gives us spiritual endurance – self-discipline. And the more we stop procrastinating and keep moving forward to do the things God has called us to do, the benefits are endless!
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Be Willing to Do the Necessary Work
Self-discipline requires work. Hard work. The one thing we all try to avoid at some point or another.
God didn’t give us a pass on hard work. He gave us His Holy Spirit to help us do the work so that it wouldn’t seem as hard. We will face some of the same circumstances, challenges, and struggles that non-Christians do, but we will go through it differently because of God.
Our hard work doesn't have to come with stress, anxiety, doubt, worry, fear and frustration. Yes, we will work our butts off. But, we can do it with hope, peace, joy, and strength, because God is with us.
Let's look at another great example of true self-discipline written by Paul:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (I Corinthians 9:24-27)
A self-disciplined Christian:
- is never in the race just to be there; they are always in it to compete for the goal or the prize
- goes into strict training; they are tough on themselves
- is ultimately always working for God; everything they do is done for His glory
- beats his/her body into subjection; they don’t easily give in to temptations, or give up when things get tough
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Eliminate and Avoid Distractions
In your journey to become more self-disciplined, it is essential to identify anything that may be a distraction or hindrance to your goal.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)
Once you identify what your distractions are, start by eliminating or at least avoiding the ones that you can.
If your goal is to lose weight, you may need to go into the kitchen and throw away the junk food. If you're distracted by the TV, you may need to unplug it for a while.
If certain people or places are a distraction - avoid them! You may need to temporarily block that friend who constantly texts you throughout the day. Or, stop hanging out with your negative cousin.
Track Your Progress and Reward Yourself Accordingly
Because self-discipline is a part of our spiritual growth as Christians, it is a lifelong process as we seek to apply it to various areas of our lives. It's important to track our progress, and reward ourselves along the way.
Keep in mind, that the process will not be a smooth sailing one. You will NOT hit your self-discipline goal(s) right away. Its important that you don't plan for perfection, but rather anticipate that you will inevitably stumble and fall off course at one point or another.
This doesn't make you a failure. It means you are human. Even Paul fell short sometimes:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (Romans 7:15)
You only fail if you quit and give up. The key to overcoming a setback is to acknowledge it, get back up, lean on God and His Word, and keep pushing forward.
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)
Take note of how God is working in your life. Tracking your success is a huge motivational factor to keep you moving in the right direction. It shows you what God has done and gets you excited to see what He is going to do next in your life!
It's important to celebrate success along the way and reward yourself accordingly! There is nothing wrong with a cheat day every now and then, especially when you are moving in the right direction with your goals. Go off your diet, have a drink, skip the gym, take a "mental health day" off from work, or do something you enjoy!
More Bible Verses About Self-Discipline
Lastly, I want to point out that self-discipline is not based on how you feel. If you ask a thousand people what their biggest struggle is when it comes to self-discipline, the majority will say a lack of energy or motivation.
The truth is, you may never feel like doing certain things, and you shouldn't wait until you feel like it. Self-discipline is doing what needs to be done, everyday, regardless of how you feel.
We don’t skip brushing our teeth just because we don’t feel like doing it (or at least most of us don’t lol). We are so disciplined to do it because it’s a part of our daily routine.
Procrastination says work only if and when you feel like it. Self-discipline says work especially when you don’t feel like it.
The bible makes it even clearer in these two verses:
- Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:11-12
- Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do no give up. Galatians 6:9
Remember, because we are empowered from within by the Holy Spirit to be self-disciplined, we really have no good excuses for quitting or giving up. And even when we feel like throwing in the towel, we are encouraged to keep our spiritual fervor by tapping into the power of God to push through and keep moving forward.
We CAN Be Self-Disciplined Christians!
Through the Holy Spirit, we have the power to exercise self-discipline in any aspect of our lives. So lets stop making excuses, and letting society deceive us into thinking we cannot be self-disciplined as Christians.
Anything in your life that is physically within in your means to do, that you want to work on, or get better at, set a goal to do it, and commit it to God.
Stop procrastinating, eliminate your distractions, and then put in the work! Decide that no matter what, you will never give up, and will keep moving forward!
Ask God to help you exercise more self-discipline by the power of His Spirit. And when you slip, stumble, or fall, it won’t change the fact that you CAN do it, through Christ who gives you strength. It just means you have to keep relying on God along the way, and clinging to His Word for guidance.
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