Maintaining Discipline

I want to talk about the d-word.

Not that one. I’m talking about discipline.

Discipline has come to mind a lot for me recently, mainly because I don’t have much of it. In fact, you could generously describe me as lazy, or accurately describe me as sedentary. Case in point: from mid-April through the end of July, I trained for a 10k run that I was planning to do with my brother and sister in law. Up until a few weeks before the race, I was doing really well with my training. I was hitting the trail several times a week, gradually increasing my distance and speed. At the same time, I was maintaining a weightlifting routine at the advice of a friend.

However, as the race grew closer, I started to make a few compromises. As my running mileage started to increase, my off-day lifting began to decrease. I also started to make excuses to skip a run now and then. The outcome was predictable: I missed my (pretty conservative) goal time by about five minutes and fell into a habit of not exercising at all almost immediately after the race. That habit shows whenever I step on my scale, and I really haven’t been able to get back into my routine recently.

Now, health and exercise are all well and good, but what concerns me more is when I see the same bad habits turning up in my spiritual life. I find it far too easy to make excuses for a lack of meaningful prayer, devotions or other interaction with what’s supposedly the very most important thing in my life.

It seems to me like I’m missing one of the main points of being a follower of Jesus. We all know what followers of Jesus were called: disciples. The word “disciple” is, of course, related to the word “discipline,” which itself refers to the act of training oneself to act according to a set of rules.

I say all this to point out that it’s very difficult to maintain a healthy life, spiritual or otherwise, without discipline. If we don’t hold ourselves to a set of established baselines, instead relying on our feelings, we’ll inevitably come up short on the days we don’t really feel like working out or reading our Bibles or taking a stand against sin in our lives.

So we need it, but how do we get it? Well, much like working out, spiritual discipline comes from having a plan. Whether it’s reading the Bible in a year, a proverb a day, or setting aside time for prayer, planning out what you do ahead of time makes it harder to avoid. What’s more, don’t try to go it alone. Working out is much easier with a partner, and adding a partner in crime (or several) to your Biblical studies makes the road a little less hazardous as well.

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