I don’t like discipline. I’m all about being natural and flexible when it comes to spiritual growth. However, it requires hard work and discipline to see improvement in so many aspects of life. Think about a sport that you’ve been playing — if you want to be better at football you need to practice. Think about the time and effort it takes to grow plants in a garden. In order to get the fruit from the plants, the soil needs to be tilled and the plants require water and sunshine. So it is with spiritual growth.
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Heb. 12:11)
1. Unchecked Hunger
Fasting has been an often talked about spiritual discipline. Forgoing food for a day or fasting from a specific meal a week or fasting from food for several days as you seek to grow closer to God. Fasting declares to God that we need Him more than nutrition. Fasting admits that I am willing to deny myself what brings satisfaction in an effort to grow closer to God. Fasting helps me depend on God instead of satisfying my craving/need for food/nutrition.
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4)
2. Unplugged Internet
We live in a constantly connected world. Have a question? Internet search it. Need something? Want to buy something? Buy online. Want to connect with friends? Connect online. Anything you want or need, you can check it out and find it on the internet. The internet has become the thing that is changing every corner of our modern world. Whether it’s friends, shopping, business, job hunting, dating or social hang out: we can do it all online. We need to unplug from the internet so that we can silence our minds. We need to be still. We need to be able to quiet our souls. We need to learn how to live without. We need to be able to not know something. We need to be able to not purchase something.
3. Untouched Phone
This ties into the previous discipline. Phones have turned from useful devices to talk to people far away to mini-versions of full-fledged computers in our pockets that at a touch connect us with anything and everything our computers can. Many bloggers have written about the dangers and traps of both social media and phones. But maybe it needs to be said again. Be disciplined. Turn the phone off for an hour or God forbid an entire day. Maybe it’s time to fast from your need to connect.
4. Undiluted Silence
Once we take time to get away from food, the internet, and our phones we can find time to be in silence. To power down the TV. To mute the radio or unplug the ipod. What happens when I sit in silence? Do I feel anxious? Is there fear in the silence? Is there fear of having to have a conversation with the God who speaks in silence? Would the addiction to noise and connection make me think I’m missing out? We believe that we want to be closer to God and yet we’re unwilling to leave the internet unplugged and the phone off. We seem to fear silence more than we fear that our relationship with God isn’t what we want it to be. Let’s be disciplined and embrace silence on a regular basis as a discipline.
“It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” (Lam. 3:26)
5. Unfulfilled Gratification
Almost every spiritual discipline is an unfulfilled desire. We live in an instant gratification culture. You and I easily succumb to whatever desire we have. We don’t need it. We don’t need it right now. We don’t need to know right now. We don’t need to text right now. We don’t need to eat it right now. We don’t need to play it right now. We don’t need to speak right now. We don’t need to. We don’t have to. It’s not necessary and it’s probably becoming an addiction. So learn to say “no”. Learn to deny yourself. It’s a spiritual discipline.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16)
6. Unfilled Schedule
We as people are busier than ever. Not only are we more connected than ever but we have made ourselves busier than ever. If we have some downtime we feel guilty for not being busy so we find things we need to do. Yet we’re constantly running from one thing to the next. We’re constantly battling against the clock. Our days are so filled that we have no time to be silent, unplugged or to have an unfulfilled want or need.
“You are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41–42)
7. Uninterrupted Time
Most of the spiritual disciplines I’ve talked about or touched on so far are the sorts of disciplines that require denial, turning things off and just saying “no”. They’re the sort of spiritual disciplines that we could classify as detox spiritual disciplines. They help us detox from the world. They cleanse our souls from the dullness, clutter, noise and crap that fills our lives. But how will we fill the void that they leave behind? We need time away. I’m not talking about a vacation or even time to relax, but a dedicated spiritual retreat. Where we get alone with God away from our normal lives and just pray and focus on spending time with God.
“Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Cor. 9:26–27)