SUMMARY: Becoming a spiritual champion requires discipline and a long life of it. This is because we are participating in a lifetime event, not simply a single season. But most of us understand this, yet the real question lies in what does discipline look like in the life of the man who follows Christ? In this Resolute Podcast, Vince Miller addresses four factors that are critical to building spiritual discipline in the champion’s life.
RESOLUTE STUDY GUIDE: BUILDING DISCIPLINE
Becoming a spiritual champion requires discipline and a long life of it. This is because we are participating in a lifetime event, not simply a single season or one-time event. But most of us understand this yet the real question lies in what does discipline look like in the life of the man who follows Christ?
So let’s define the word discipline for a moment. Simply put discipline, as a verb, is synonymous with the concept of training. Training that suppresses natural desires for something we desire more. In the Bible when discipline is used as a noun, is referencing spiritual activity that leads to controlled outcomes or increased obedience. Examples of this would be prayer, fasting, worship, service, reading, and other activities used for the purpose of spiritual growth. And the focus is always on knowing Jesus Christ and becoming more like Him. This activity should never be understood legalistically and reduced to simple behavior modification when it is really about the heart.
To gain a full understanding of discipline it is good to look at the outcomes of discipline. So let’s use a maturing athlete as an example. If you could watch a single athlete and his growth in performance over a few years between his last year in high school to his first year of professional sports you would probably see a noticeable difference. Yet the time between this maturation is often only a few years. And what happened during this time that had an impact on the athlete’s performance? Well, some of the factors are increased in age, ability, and knowledge combined with skill, genetics, and passion but there is only one constant; discipline. The willingness to suppress certain desires for something we desire more, which is probably playing at a professional level. There are a few athletes that understand this even more than others. For example the young Olympic gymnast. They must forgo schooling, memories, relationships, and downtime for something they desire more – the Olympic opportunity to compete for a gold medal on the world’s stage. So discipline involves doing things we sometimes do not always desirable, for something we desire more.
Today we are going to be looking at 1 Timothy 4:6-10, for a better understanding of a discipline. It is important to keep in mind that Paul writes this to Timothy who is in his mid-30’s even though Paul refers to him as a “youth.” And the purpose of this communication to Timothy is to give him some instruction as the leader of the church. Paul knows Timothy’s discipline of himself, and others are critical to the church. And so here are his words found in 1 Timothy 4:6-10.
“If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”
So here are four observations about spiritual discipline from this text.
First, notice that the spiritual champion’s discipline is centered in the word. Verse 6 reads, “being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.” The “words” Paul is referencing here is God’s Word and His good doctrine is the truth found in the Bible. Gentlemen our discipline is centered in the Bible as our primary source of truth. It is the plumb line of truth and the truth by which all other ideas and philosophies will submit. Since all truth is God’s truth, we must always be about immersing ourselves in it and subjecting the world’s ideas and even our own to it. This is one of the reasons that I prefer to study the Bible using the inductive method. The inductive method keeps me in submission to the will of God through His words which I must not deviate from in my thinking, doing, and being. A disciple of Jesus Christ needs to understand that they will spend their whole life studying this single book and must be subject to in it in all they think, do, and be. But the question then becomes, do we really submerse ourselves in God’s truth? Too often we rarely spend more than a few seconds in God’s Word each week. It seems to me that even the church is spending less and less time in the Word. I have attended many churches that hardly read the Bible during a weekend service. I would welcome you to count how much real time is spent in your church reading from the Bible this week. If they are not spending much time, then it might be time to find another church because my concern for you would be, what are they teaching? But before we become too critical of the church, let’s remember we are ultimately responsible for our faith. Therefore, we should be men who spend time in God’s Word all the time. We should be in the Word on our own. While it is beneficial to hear from a single preacher during a weekend service, this is no substitute for studying God’s Word on our own. We cannot live on spoon feeding on a platform one time a week. We should all become experts in handling scripture. And to do this we must be saturated in it. We should be disciplined in and disciplined by it – notice my use of words there. We should be disciplined in and disciplined by it.
Second notice that the spiritual champion’s discipline is cautious of faddish ideas. I think we often chase new philosophies because the old foundational ideas appear to not be working for us, have become routine, or the results are just too delayed. I have found that the issue is often not a need for a new idea, but welcoming variety within the foundational disciplines. Perhaps the most helpful idea in recent times for training athletes has been the focus of cross-training for athletes. Rather than using the same routine training methods, cross-training offers not only variety but also variations in training for the whole athlete. While they learn the same fundamental truths with different exercises, they have increased their focus by modifying their discipline rather than simply teaching some fadish idea. I find this to be true in my spiritual discipline. While I have enjoyed a life of prayer and reading, I also need some variety in the way I read and how I pray so that I can stay fresh. Often I know many people who are changing their spiritual discipline through listening to a variety of preachers, reading a variety of devotional books, and trying a variety of spiritual practices. While some may be equipped to understand the differences, many are not and do embrace “silly myths” as Paul calls them above. So while we need variety in the basic, we also have to be careful because at times we can be seduced by theological ideas we thought were true, but were not biblically based. I have witnessed this in a variety of churches even from the platform at a weekend service. Too often we import ideas from talk show personalities and political figures that are not based on truth. For example, early in my relationship with Christ, I was taught by the church that earning my salvation through discipline was an acceptable view and I embraced it but was often exhausted by this theology. Until one day I discovered that God’s gift of righteousness was extended to me by Christ, not something that I could earn, and this small and theologically correct idea catapulted my motivation and discipline to a whole new next level.
Third notice that spiritual champion’s discipline is comprehensive training. Spiritual discipline is not one dimensional it is multidimensional. Spiritual discipline is the most comprehensive training. Here you will note that Paul states that bodily discipline holds some value but none for the life to come. It is training in godliness that has compounding value, because it has value here and for life thereafter. Those of us who are getting older know the meaning of this statement, because we understand that our bodies are deteriorating machines. So while our youth will fade, training in godliness will always have benefit. We also know that discipline which is focused on character development and the internal spiritual development of a man is transferable into any arena of life, even as we age.
Fourth notice that the spiritual champion’s discipline is focused on hope. Discipline is not an end in itself but a means to the end. We must keep in mind the end is to know Jesus Christ and the power of his rising as Paul so eloquently stated. While discipline is never fun at the moment, we must keep our eyes on the end game. Like an athlete focused on the finish line, the final moments of the event, or the championship trophy we must keep our eyes fixed to our hope. And we must never take them off.
So gentlemen here are your points from today:
- Spiritual champion’s discipline is centered in the word.
- Spiritual champion’s discipline is cautious of faddish ideas.
- Spiritual champion’s discipline is comprehensive training.
- Spiritual champion’s discipline is focused on hope.
So my challenge for you today is to be disciplined in the Word and by the Word. And to do this you need to be reading the Bible. There are lots of ways to do this, but you can simply dust off that book, crack open the binding, and start reading. Our you can just follow along in our App, we have a daily reading built right in. If you want to develop a good pattern I would suggest a few chapters each day for a week from the Gospel of John. John is simple to read, since it is a narrative, and it contains the story of Jesus which is very beneficial for a man wanting to develop a pattern. From there I would turn to Acts and read the story of the early church, and after that just send me a note and I will read a book with you!
So men if you want to be a great disciple you are going to have to faithfully invest the time to get there.