Very few people actually seek to learn how to develop self-discipline or self-control.
In fact, the pursuit of self-discipline has been a seemingly “lost art” among the masses, regardless of what point in history we find ourselves in. It’s one of those things that most will only work towards periodically. And then . . . . well, most just quit and give up.
We say things like: “This is just me.” “God made me this way.” “I’m already self-disciplined – disciplined to do what I want, when I want.” “This is me, deal with it.” “I’m okay with how I am.”
Rather than seek change or attempt to develop self-discipline, we accept and settle for things just the way they are, because it’s simply the easy thing to do.
What is Self-Discipline?
The Webster’s dictionary defines self-discipline as follows:
self–discipline: the correction or regulation of oneself for the sake of improvement
And Webster’s defines self-control as:
self-control: restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires
It’s what so often separates those who succeed from those who fail.
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 some level of self-discipline.
But how do we develop self-discipline as normal everyday people who don’t fit into those categories? How do we develop self-discipline as a Christian? Is it even important? Does it matter?
Well, I’m glad you asked! And if you’ve been reading my blog long enough, you should know where I’m headed first.
What Does the Bible Say About Self-Discipline?
- Self-discipline and self-control come from the Spirit of God.
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 keep it moving. The bible tells us in II Timothy 1:7:
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. In this case that includes self-discipline.
In fact, Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) gives 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."
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 Luke 1:37 says:
“For with God nothing shall be impossible”. - Luke 1:37 (NIV)
The power to be self-disciplined stems from God and God alone.
2. God has equipped us to learn how to be self-disciplined through His Word.
"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 (NIV)
Notice that the verse says that God has given us everything we need for a godly life “through our knowledge of him”. In other words, through our knowledge of His Word. All roads lead back to learning the bible.
Because the bible is the Word of God, it is our source for everything that we will ever need to live our Christian lives and be successful at it. #learningthebible #WordofGod #inthemirrorofGod
The sooner we embrace this fact, the faster everything else in our lives will begin to fall into place. This includes self-discipline and self-control. Although we have His spirit, we must cultivate the spirit so that we can be led by the power of the spirit.
We don’t just magically become self-disciplined people overnight. We must learn God’s Word to even know what areas he has called us to be disciplined in. And then ask God to help us to develop self-discipline and self-control as we grow more in our walk with him.
3. Learning self-discipline is a process.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Phil 4:12-13 (NIV) that self-discipline is a learning process:
"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."
He "learned" to be disciplined by the power of the spirit. Again we can ONLY do these things by the strength that God gives us! We sometimes have the mindset that we can make it on our own, and only bring God in if things fail.
But 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. #includeGod #allthingswithGod #inthemirrorofGod
So we’ve got the power and strength of God within us to be self-disciplined and self-controlled, but how do we tap into that power and strength? How do we develop self-discipline and apply this in real life?
Self-Discipline Never Includes Procrastination
We’ve all heard the saying that procrastination is the thief of time. And we all know that time is the one thing we can never get back once its gone.
Procrastination not only hinders our progress, but sometimes we allow it to stop our success in certain areas altogether. We literally put off some things and then forget about them.
Let's look at a few scriptures about procrastination.
"All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty." - Proverbs 14:23 (NIV)
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 – into hard work. That is the only thing that will bring a profit of any kind.
"Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring." - Proverbs 27:1 (NIV)
Everyone wants to hold off til tomorrow. We plan and live as if we are God and know that tomorrow is guaranteed. We act as if tomorrow we’ll have more zeal than we do in the current moment. When in fact, we may never feel like doing certain things. Self-discipline is not built on how we feel at all. 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. And just like brushing our teeth, eventually when we make self-discipline a habit, it won’t feel like a chore or burden. It will come naturally, because we make it a part of our routine. But if we are always waiting for tomorrow to even get started, we’ll never accomplish anything.
"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 (NIV)
"Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning." - Luke 12:35 (NIV)
I love these two verses because the point is to simply always be doing something productive, or at least be ready and willing to work. Procrastination says work only if and when you feel like it. Self-discipline is the exact opposite! In fact self-discipline says work especially when you don’t feel like it.
When it comes to spiritual goals, this is even more true. Its those times where you don’t want to go to church, don’t want to have devotions, don’t want to teach Sunday school, don’t want to forgive, and don’t want to pray. Those are the times, when 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!
"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 (NIV)
God puts so many opportunities in our paths. But if we are constantly procrastinating, we will miss out on blessings that God puts right in front of us. And then we’ll turn around and ask God 'what happened'?
Self-Discipline Always Requires Hard Work
Yes. Hard Work. The one thing we all try to avoid at some point or another.
I love how Christians sometimes have the mentality that because we are Christians, we won’t have to work as hard as others to accomplish things in life, because we have God.
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-believers do, but we will go through it differently because of God. #hardwork #inthemirrorofGod
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.
This is one of my favorite passages written by the Apostle Paul as he depicts a great imagery of true self-discipline.
"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 (NIV)
And here are the key points:
- A self-disciplined Christian is never in the spiritual race just to be there. They are always in it to compete for the goal or the prize.
- A self-disciplined Christian goes into strict training. Nothing about self-discipline is easy. It requires us to be tough on ourselves.
- A self-disciplined Christian is ultimately always working for God. As Christians we are not just looking to get the earthly blessings, but we work to get a heavenly crown that will last forever. In other words everything we do, we do for the glory of God!
- A self-disciplined Christian beats his body into subjection. We don’t give in to temptations, impulses or fleshly desires. We don’t easily give up or quit. When things get tough, we beat our bodies into subjection and get back on course. When obstacles arise, we seek God’s Word, pray and get our minds back on track. We get our heads back in the game and say “not today Satan, not today”.
Whatever areas you are working on to be more disciplined in – dieting, exercising, finances, relationships, studying, a new business startup, etc. – there is no way around putting in the hard work to get to your goal. Even growing in your walk with God takes time and hard work if you want to be successful.
Self-Discipline Requires You to Get Rid of Some Bad Habits
No matter what area of our lives we are working on, self-discipline will almost always require you to give up at least one bad habit.
Even when it comes to spiritual self-discipline the bible names several things (bad habits) we must get rid of:
"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips." - Colossians 3:5-8
In order to develop self-discipline, sometimes we have to challenge ourselves to a 'make-over'. A make-over in the sense of breaking a few 'bad habits' in order to be successful in certain areas.
From personal, social, financial, educational, mental, physical or spiritual bad habits – we all have them in one shape or form. Just to name a few examples:
- always being late
- smoking or drinking to deal with stress
- not exercising
- not getting enough sleep
- not being able to detach from social media
- watching too much TV
- using credit cards for everything
- not sticking to your budget
- not paying attention during conversations
- not paying people back what you owe them
- not finishing projects
- using excessive foul language
- always complaining
And then there are the 1000 other things that could go on the list! The point is, we all have certain bad habits in our lives that have hindered and are still hindering us from getting to where God wants us to be.
The Word of God teaches that because of Christ, we don’t have to let our flesh (our emotions or feelings) control us. There is no bad habit that with the power of the Holy Spirit we can’t beat if we make a decision to.
Self-Discipline Requires a Goal
If we are going to develop more self discipline in our lives as Christians, we must have goals to go along with it. Regardless of what area(s) you are planning to work on, there must be a goal in sight. Just like with the imagery of a runner in a race running to get the prize, there must be some motivational destination that we are aiming for or headed towards.
When it comes to our spiritual journey, here is another passage written by the Apostle Paul that expresses the point 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 (NIV)
I think what I love most about this passage, is the fact that at the point in his life that Paul writes this letter to the Philippian church, Paul has already attained so much ministry wise. He has 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.
In fact, he writes the book of Philippians from a prison cell! My point is, for a full time minister, Paul had accomplished it all. But yet, Paul’s 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.
Even though he was imprisoned for preaching the gospel message, he didn’t give up, throw in the towel, or stop his ministry. In fact he was self-disciplined by the power of the Holy Spirit to continue his ministry even while in chains!
He still wrote letters to the churches he had planted, ministered and even encouraged his fellow believers who were in better physical circumstances than he was. And he did it all to win a heavenly prize. Nothing more, nothing less. 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, motivates us, and pushes us in times of struggle and opposition. Even if that goal is simply to serve God and do His will – which by the way is the best goal to have!
We CAN Be Self-Disciplined Christians
One of my pet peeves is when people say they can’t do something. Not because they physically can’t or because something is truly preventing them from doing so, but because they simply won’t and refuse to try. It bothers me even more so when Christians declare they can’t do something.
Through His Spirit, we have the power to exercise self-discipline and self-control in any aspect of our lives. So lets stop making excuses!
Excuses for not following through on that diet, not going to the gym, not cutting back on drinking or smoking, not spending time with our kids, not saving money, not sticking to our budget, not setting aside quiet time with God, etc.
And let’s also stop letting society convince and 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!
Stop procrastinating – NOW!
Make a plan, and figure out what bad habits you need to get rid of in order to achieve your goal. Then put in the effort and hard work that is needed. And decide that no matter what, you will never give up, and will keep moving forward!
Ask God now and continuously along the way to help you exercise more and more self-discipline and self-control by the power of His Spirit. Trust me, you won’t be able to do it alone, even if you tried!
Lastly, please remember that it is a process. You will NOT hit your goal right away. It takes time for everyone – no exceptions! In fact, failure will be a part of the process.
But guess what? 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 Him along the way, and clinging to His Word for guidance.
Let's stop being defeated, unmotivated, undisciplined Christians. God has given us the power to develop self-discipline, and make positive and productive changes in every area of our lives. #selfdiscipline #inthemirrorofGod
I don't know about you, but I plan to tap into that power and learn more and more of God's Word everyday to guarantee my success!