What does the Bible have to say about self-discipline? How can we win over our fleshly old nature?
Self-discipline is something I struggle with often. In fact, on a recent Wednesday afternoon, I needed a nap . . . and when I take a nap, my day can get derailed quickly. I set my alarm for 30 minutes, then immediately dropped off to sleep. When the alarm rang 30 minutes later, I hit snooze. More than once. Then, when I did finally manage to keep my eyes open, I reached over for my iPad, just to take a look at Instagram and check my email. Yeah. You know how that goes.
An hour later, I realized I had to get supper going so we could get to church . . . and the frustration snowballed from there. Not only did I get nothing done that afternoon, but I added unnecessary stress to my life on a busy day by not ruling my spirit well.
The struggle is real, y'all.
But we don't have to live in defeat! We can - and should - triumph over our old nature. If you've been saved, you have the Holy Spirit residing in your heart, and He desires to produce the fruit of the Spirit in your life. Self-discipline is part of that fruit (the King James Version uses the word 'temperance' in several places with the meaning of self-discipline).
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." Galatians 5:22, 23
Here are five biblical ways to build self-discipline:
- Pray. The first thing you can do about a lack of self-discipline is to pray about it. David prayed about his mouth: "Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips." Psalm 141:3 God wants us to come to Him with our needs, especially those things we're fighting against in our lives. Ask God to help you become more focused on what needs to be done, or to remind you to stop doing one thing and start doing another. God welcomes us to "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not." Jeremiah 33:3
- Change your mind. By changing your mind, I mean to renew it biblically by reading, meditating on, and memorizing Scripture. "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." Romans 12:2 "And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;" Ephesians 4:23 "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." John 17:17 As you read your Bible daily, make note of any verses that could apply to self-discipline and overcoming the sin nature. Write them in your Scripture notebook, memorize them, read them over and over. Saturate your mind with the Word of God, and your thinking will begin to change; your mind will be changed.
- Change one habit at a time. Our lives are made up of habits, whether good or bad. Begin to develop new habits. Replace old habits with new ones. "That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." Ephesians 4:22-24 "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;" 2 Peter 1:5
- Make a plan. Learn to recognize what gets you off-track in relation to discipline, and plan ways to avoid those situations. Proverbs 4:25, 26 teaches, "Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established." Be the boss of your day, rather than letting it boss you!
- Don't give up. There will be setbacks. There will be days that you can't seem to get anything accomplished and all you want to do is veg out on the couch. Don't let those days discourage you! "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:13, 14
Do you struggle with self-discipline like I do? What are some ways you have overcome the old nature? Share in the comments!