Douglas Frank Photograph
Resolution or revolution, do you make vows or promises? Be careful what you list, for I believe instead "it” is your heart that God wants, broken and contrite. I will keep “it” simple as we look ahead. We can only live today, one moment at a time, enjoying “it” no matter what. I believe that is getting to “it.” Enjoying God and praising Him is what “it” is all about in “it.” So here “it” is:
Self-Discipline is my spiritual fruit concentration for the New Year. Joy was celebrated in 2017 and I will keep it going for that is God’s will too. I have written on self-control, which is similar, but seems to be more about not flying off the handle or losing it. Moreover, self-discipline is that witness for the purpose of godliness. Discipline without direction or hope is drudgery; ask any six-year old in a music lesson. The rugged strength of Christian character grows from discipline. The Apostle Paul teaches to “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7 NASB). Seek the light of His wisdom in your quest.
So what are these disciplines that will help in the New Year? Here is my partial and hopefully helpful list; confession, accountability, simplicity, silence, solitude, serenity, sanctuary, submission, celebration, meditation, praising and thanksgiving are a few keys for me. How do we do this? I believe there are many keys, but two are better than one and “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). So seek God first in silent solitude and find another godly person in your journey to discipline.
Stuff or life happens as the circumstances of our lives push and pull us. This is the opportunity to choose godly disciplines, or the easy old fallback position or habits. God is trying to transform us from one level to another higher one in Christlikeness through His Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18). Cultivate communion or vital union with Christ, as God wants us to apply our whole heart to discipline. It’s holiness He is after as He has given us His righteousness. We are modeling and following in fellowship with Him. We have the freedom in Christ to embrace the undisciplined or disciplined life one moment at a time. So we need to practice and choose life in a disciplined way (Deuteronomy 30:19). There is a price to freedom, different from Braveheart’s. It is the blood of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross that has set us free to be pure and holy in the pursuit of discipline, a life-long quest through Christ’s Spirit who strengthens us for the journey.
Remember that if you are in Christ, you are a new person, the old is gone and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). Since God is new every morning, open His Word and meditate on the truths that set us free (John 8:36). There are many ways to study God’s Word. I concentrate starting on the Psalms that deal with every emotion. I start with Psalm 1 imaged in the “Light Tree” photo above saying, “Blessed in the man whose delight in in the law of the Lord. He is like a tree planted in streams of water, which yields its fruit in season.” In this way the Holy Spirit using a concordance for reference leads me to other Scripture. It is in this process that the Spirit reveals what He wants me to pursue in my life and in journaling and writing.
Pray faithfully, guarding your hearts, for this is the wellspring of our lives (Proverbs 4:23). Talking to God clarifies and emboldens His Word into us. Pray morning, noon and night or as Paul says, continuously. This is an attitude of the heart, taking all things to God in prayer. He hears and answers always, unless you have un-confessed sin in your life.
Be patient in affliction and stay the course. Stay under the trial until God is done with you. Wow, there is a hard one made more clear, but no less easy in James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy when you come into trials of diverse kinds because the testing of your faith develops perseverance, which must finish its work so that you may become mature and complete lacking nothing.” This hard passage tells us that God is giving or allowing the trial or temptation, while He is with us in it. He is faithful as 1 Corinthians 10:13 admonishes us. He is faithful and will provide a way out or through if we stay under. We will miss the blessing and lesson of the trial if we don’t persevere with self-discipline. So as James 1:5 admonishes, “But if anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously.”
Now, be joyful in hope! You probably notice that I am walking you through Romans 12:12 about Joy, patience and faithfulness in all things. And I want to add to this verse praise which Paul does in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 when he tells us to “rejoice always, give thanks in all things and pray continuously, for this is will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” You see, God is in or inhabits the praises of His people, Israel (Psalm 22:3). His people are the apple of His eye and He will deliver them through the storms and trials of life. Notice that most of the Old Testament is about God’s people rebelling and being disobedient with consequences, leading to a 40-year sentence, famine and wars and pain. God uses pain to discipline us so that we will be more disciplined. Trouble can draw us closer to God or push us away; it is our choice to be grateful for His grace or not.
I could write all day on New Year’s discipline. Let me pause for a while to let it sink in or be assimilated or not. Remember that none of this is possible on your own. It is the Holy Spirit filling and leading you in the Truth that prevails. He also convicts, but He comforts too, so seek His filling continuously as you work to be disciplined in His name for His glory and your good. Blessed Happy New Year!