We’ve defined what spiritual disciplines are. We’ve determined the purpose for them. We’ve given examples. That’s helpful but how do we get to the point where we consistently engage in the spiritual disciplines?
First, we need to understand the spiritual battle behind a struggle to engage in the spiritual disciplines.
The practice of what we call spiritual disciplines has the potential for making us spiritually fit, people who know and love God and want to follow Him with all of their heart, soul, and strength. Satan does not want that to happen seen in the Apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthian believers:
But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Cor. 11:3)
We must recognize that while Satan may not always directly throw hindrances in our way, he does sometimes piggyback on our busyness, poor choices, anxieties, and the like. It is therefore important we pay attention to the whole of our lives, constantly yielding our decisions, attitudes, and actions to God. Pray something like “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24). We must keep a clean slate with the Lord remembering that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:12). We don’t want to give Satan openings into our lives.
When we do sense Satan coming against us, we must remember to rely on God’s strength and power, not our own, to stand against his schemes. We must replace the lies of the enemy trying to convince us that it doesn’t matter or make much difference if we study God’s Word or pray. The truth is that we are commanded to be devoted to such practices and they do make a difference.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph. 6:10-12)
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor. 10:4-5)
Second, we need to understand how natural tendencies, like our personalities, can affect our practice of the spiritual disciplines.
Some will find the spiritual disciplines easier because by nature they have a more disciplined personality. Because of this, it’s possible to practice the disciplines purely out of habit and just be going through the motions.
Others will find consistency much harder because they are naturally more easily distracted or procrastinators. Because of this, it’s possible that the frustration they feel either makes them give up altogether or else try to muster up even more willpower.
We must know our tendencies and yield control of who we are to the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:15-18) so He is the one guiding, convicting, and teaching us as well as producing the qualities we need within us to not only practice the spiritual disciplines but do them for the right reasons.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.(Gal. 5:22-25)
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Tim. 1:7)
Third, we need to grab hold of God’s resources that will enable us to engage in spiritual disciplines.
If it seems too burdensome, perhaps we are trying to live the Christian life by our own efforts and self-determination.
In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 Jn. 5:3-5)
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matt. 11:29-30)
To be sure, we do have a part in the process. Philippians 2:12 does say, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Engaging in the spiritual disciplines certainly must be a means of doing that. But, let’s not stop at verse 12. The next verse continues with, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” You see, “His divine power has given us everything we need” (2 Pet. 1:3).
We must always remember that God’s Spirit is both with us and in us (Jn. 14:16-17). We can rely on our ever-present Helper to empower us. Don’t take the spiritual out of the spiritual disciplines because then all you are left with are disciplines.