Discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees. Hebrews 12:11-12
I hate going to the gym in late December and early January. The parking lot and exercise machines are more crowded than usual with all the people who have made resolutions to get back into shape. I know it’s only a temporary situation; the enthusiasm will wear off for many as soon as the routine becomes hard work. It takes discipline to continue regular exercise, as schedules get busy again and muscles get sore.
Physical exercise is definitely important, but for Christians, spiritual exercise is even more important. Paul told Timothy to “train” himself in godliness (1 Timothy 4:7 NIV). Christian discipline—prayer, worship, Bible reading, gathering for church and small groups—requires effort. Both Paul and the writer of Hebrews encourage us to ignore the unpleasant pain of discipline and remember the value of godliness.
As I begin this year, I am going to take the advice of the pastor of my church and read through the four gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—by Easter. It can be done by reading one or two chapters a day. Many of the stories will be very familiar, but I’m asking God to show me something new each day as I read.
I’m reminded of Moses who was tending a flock of sheep one day when he saw a burning bush. Drawn to the bush when he saw that “though the bush was on fire it did not burn up,” Moses encountered the angel of the LORD—a figure that many believe was the pre-incarnate Christ (Exodus 3:1-3). My prayer is that I’ll encounter Christ more intimately as I read about His birth, ministry, death and resurrection.
I challenge you to begin this new year exercising discipline in your physical and spiritual routines. How can you strengthen your spiritual life by using the disciplines of prayer, worship, Bible reading, gathering for church and small groups?
May you be rewarded by stronger hands and knees as well as the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Read Psalm 42. What are some things the psalmist does to seek the Lord?
Read 1 Timothy 4. What does Paul tell Timothy to seek? What does he encourage him to avoid? Are there changes you need to make in your life?
Would you like to strengthen your devotional life? Try a journal:Devotional Journal
Nancy J. Baker