Physical v. Spiritual Discipline

18 11 2011

I’ve been thinking about discipline for a while.  Not the punishment kind of discipline, but the “training to bring about control and order” discipline.  And I’ve been specifically thinking about physical discipline versus spiritual discipline.  Actually, the idea first struck me when I read Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes in April 2010.  It’s a fascinating true story of the author and his adventures running ultramarathons and other crazy races that test the limits of human endurance.  Coming off of the Ragnar Relay, this thought has come back to the forefront of my mind.

What would happen if we trained and disciplined ourselves spiritually as we do physically?

I know so many people, myself included, who are willing to undertake crazy, diligent, borderline-insane physical discipline to accomplish physical goals.  Whether we are trying to lose weight, finish a triathlon, qualify for the Boston marathon, or decrease the odds of developing diabetes, cancer, or other diseases, we can exhibit tremendous discipline and determination.

But when it comes to spiritual discipline in our lives, we are generally quite lazy.  Why is that?

Pride is a huge part of our spiritual laziness.  If we are always right, always the best, always the most knowledgeable, there’s never any reason to change.  We know it all, can do it all, have it all . . . so there!

The bigger issue for me is comfort.  I’m comfortable with who I am, where I am in life, what I do, etc.  Comfort is not a bad thing.  However, it is detrimental when it keeps me from growing and maturing.  I’ve realized that comfort is the antithesis of change and discipline.

Even in those times of great struggle in my life, I could cope.  I could block the negativity from my mind while I carried on with life.  I knew how to function successfully under turmoil.  In these times, I knew I needed to change.  I didn’t always know what changes to make, but I knew something had to change. 

But change required effort.  Change required discipline.  Change required being intentional in my thoughts and my actions.  Change required more than I wanted to give.  It required me to step out of my comfort zone, and I don’t like being uncomfortable.

I also didn’t see the full benefits of becoming spiritually disciplined.  Why should I bother becoming spiritually disciplined if I’m “fine” the way I am?  (Of course, that’s a lie, but it’s a lie I believe for many years.)  I couldn’t answer that question for years, but now it seems so simple.  It’s difficult to live out, but simple in theory.  

The fruit of the Spirit is:
(Galatians 5:22-23)

I want each of those nouns to describe me, but few currently do.  That is why I need to change and focus on spiritual discipline.

Becoming more spiritually disciplined is the reason I began fasting in February, and my prayer life has been taken to a new level.  It is the reason I now seek accountability among my friends, and I am slowly making progress in overcoming some lifelong struggles.  It is the reason I share devotionals about what God has been teaching me with the entire upper school student body where I teach—which is definitely way outside of my comfort zone.

The question now becomes, how do we become spiritually disciplined?

  • Pray until you’ve prayed for everyone in your little corner of the world.  EVERYONE goes beyond your immediate family and close friends.  Pray for the homeless man you pass on your way to work every day.  Pray for the co-worker who gets on every one’s nerves.  Pray for the cashier at Target.  Pray for our political leaders, even the ones you don’t agree with.  Pray for everyone you see–stranger or not, pray for evey name you read on Facebook or Twitter–friend or not, pray for everyone you talk to or email.  Try this for one day, and see what happens.
  • Give and serve to the point of sacrifice.  Stop giving based on what’s left over at the end of the month, and give generously to God from the “first fruits” of your paycheck.  Give more than you think you can give.  I promise you, God will not let you starve if you are honoring him with your financial resources.
  • Read and study God’s word unceasingly.  Read the Bible every day, even when you don’t feel like it.  If your heart is receptive, God will speak to you.
  • Forgive to the extreme.  Forgive every wrong, every time you think about it.  You may have to do this 100s of times each day.
  • Be accountable with a group of people you trust to lead you on the right path.  You must be honest, authentic, and transparent about your struggles or this will never work.
  • Live humbly and righteously no matter what the world thinks.

This is definitely all easier said than done.  However, I’ve decided that it is more dangerous for me to live a comfortable life than to live one that requires great discipline.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love
and of self-discipline.” -2 Timothy 1:7




7 responses

18 11 2011
What keeps you going? « Here We Go

[…] Physical v. Spiritual Discipline ( […]

19 11 2011
Katie Foster

Stepping out of your comfort zone definitely is difficult! We’re always afraid to push our faith. I loved the thought that “comfort is the antithesis of change and discipline”. I might be using that idea for an AP English essay!

20 11 2011

I think this is a great philosophy on how to live life.

20 11 2011

I hope some day I can live my life like this. First I should probably work on the love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control….but other than that…

21 11 2011
When Spiritual Traditions Resemble Washed-Up Rock stars: Spiriitual Syphilus infecting the Internet « A Spoonful of Suga

[…] Physical v. Spiritual Discipline ( […]

27 11 2011
In The Buffed Zone «

[…] Physical v. Spiritual Discipline ( […]

29 11 2011
Becoming a Master of Self-Discipline | Create Your Life By Design

[…] Physical v. Spiritual Discipline ( […]

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