Spiritual Discipline: How to build a strong foundation
Let’s talk about spiritual discipline.
I know, it’s not my favourite topic either. In fact, I would never choose to talk about spiritual discipline. Why? Because discipline is hard, and I’ve had it up to here with hard.
Just the term, ‘spiritual discipline,’ makes me feel uncomfortable. I feel guilty because I don’t spend enough time reading the Bible and praying. I don’t fast as regularly as I should. I am busy, and I’m trying so hard to be a good Christian, and a good wife, and a good mother, and a good friend, and a good daughter, and the list goes on and on and on. I already feel like I’m not measuring up to the standard, whatever that standard actually is. I feel overwhelmed, inadequate, tired.
I think of spiritual discipline like an angry personal trainer at boot camp, or the high school principal, aloof and unapproachable. I feel like I’m in trouble even if I haven’t done anything wrong, the constant voice yelling, “Do more, be better, go faster!”
Stop yelling at me!
When I open my Bible, when I read the words that Jesus said and see the way He interacted with people, I don’t see the angry personal trainer or aloof school principal. I see a friend, encouraging me to be the very best person I can be; a loving father, guiding me to live the best life I can live. Jesus changes the way I think about discipline. Discipline is not angry, yelling at me because I’m not good enough. Discipline is my friend.
Discipline is my friend–a friend who is cheering me on and speaking words of courage and truth. A friend who is challenging my destructive thoughts and behaviours and showing me a better way. A friend who loves me dearly and wants the very best for me. Discipline is my friend.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches about the Kingdom of God. The ideas are radical and counter-cultural. His teaching on how to deal with conflict, how to measure success and how to treat one another is revolutionary. At the end of the sermon, recorded in Matthew 7 and Luke 6, Jesus finishes with a story: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27
There are two keys here:
- Hear Jesus’ words
- Put them into practice
Easy. Well, no, not that easy, but definitely simple.
Every time I open God’s word, I can ask myself these two questions – ‘What is God saying?’ and ‘What am I going to do about it?’ As I open up my heart to hear what God is saying to me, to notice the voice of the Spirit who is teaching and guiding, and then have the obedience and courage to actually do it, I am building a strong foundation for my life.
And I need a strong foundation, because the storm is coming.
There isn’t any way to avoid storms in life. We live in a broken world, polluted by sin. Everyone, at some point in their his or her life, has to brave a storm: “It’s cancer.” “I want a divorce.” “I can’t find a heartbeat.” “I have to let you go.” “Mum’s gone.”
A phone call from the bank, there are insufficient funds. The police at the door at midnight, there has been an accident. I know you know. You’ve been there too. We’ve all had those days, those moments, when our heart pounds in our ears and you think you’re going to be sick.
The storms are all around. Some you can see coming on the horizon, others hit hard out of nowhere. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Jesus never promised us a life without problems; quite the opposite, He promised us difficulties. But He also promises us His presence and His help. When our foundation is strong, our house will not be destroyed by the storm. When our life is built on the truth of God’s word, we will hold on to our peace even through the most difficult circumstances.
I will embrace discipline as my friend because I need a strong foundation for my life. The way to build my foundation is to hear God’s words and put them into practice. What is God saying to you today? What are you going to do about it? I trust you have the faith to obey.
Christine is a wife and mother of three adult kids, who lives in an apartment full of potted plants and drinks more coffee than she’d like to admit. Christine works full time in ministry at her church and writes about faith, self-care, and simple living in her blog, Living with Margins. You can listen to our Bible studies by tuning in to your favorite radio station, listening to our podcast on iTunes, or listening through TuneIn or Stitcher online radio. We’re now also on Spotify!