I recently spoke about self-discipline at Beulah Alliance Church on March 8-9. For a copy of the message, click on the following link: http://www.beulah.ca/321604.ihtml The message topic is “Steady to the Core.”
In my talk I focused on the importance of training versus trying. This concept comes from Dallas Willard’s book, Renovation of the Heart. I recommend this book for any fellow sojourners desiring transformation of the heart.
At the end of the talk I described four training tips to help develop self-discipline. I promised that I would post these tips online. I want to give credit to the book, The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. The tenth chapter in the book, “Taking Action: The Power of Positive Rituals,” helped provide some of the formative thinking that went into these training tips.
Establish God-centred rituals.
Rituals are very powerful things. Rituals express our beliefs about life and reality at a very deep level. They help to train us so that when we face an opponent, it requires less energy because we have conditioned ourselves.
Gathering together on Sunday with other believers is a ritual. Participating in a Life Group or Table Group is a ritual. Praying with your friends or family is a ritual. Practicing the spiritual disciplines in solitude is a ritual.
What are we training ourselves to be? We are essentially training ourselves to be in a God-centred state where we are led and empowered by the Spirit. This is a state where we are aware of God, rely on God, and surrender ourselves to his leadership. We do this as we train so that, when we enter the arena of life, we are prepared.
Aim for gradual change.
Self-discipline comes in degrees. In 2 Peter 1:8, Peter talks about possessing self-discipline, among other qualities, in “increasing measure.” Sometimes we envision self-discipline as a light switch. Either it’s on or it’s off. Either we have it or we don’t have it. But Peter says that we can have more or less self-control. If that is true, then it is better to understand self-control as a dimmer switch. We either have more of it or less of it.
Some people tell me that they just don’t have time to establish God-centered rituals. What they often mean is that they can’t find an hour a day to be alone with God. That’s kind of like “hitting the ground running” (this metaphor will make more sense if you listen to the message). Typically they fall flat on their faces because they have tried to do too much, too soon.
Like any training regiment, it’s important to start at a slower pace. Can you find five minutes tomorrow to connect with God? I bet you can. Turn off the radio on the way to work or take the time in the shower. During that time, center yourself on God. Let God know that you need him, that you want him to lead your life. Do that consistently for a week. Then take your training up a notch by increasing your time, or adding another dimension to your training.
Be precise and specific about doing it.
Studies demonstrate, time and time again, that the more specific you are about a ritual, the greater likelihood that you will do it. I recommend that you describe what you will do, where you will do it, and when you will do it. In other words, I will pray, in my car, while I am driving to work. Schedule it in. If you want to develop a ritual, you need to do this. If you say, “I will find some time to pray tomorrow,” there is a high probability that you will not. Why? Because you have not developed the capacity to do it. It has not yet become a habit.
Find a motivation partner.
Studies also demonstrate that if you tell someone what you are going to do, and ask them to help you do it, you will have a much greater chance of success.
I recommend that you find a motivation partner. Note that I didn’t say accountability partner. An accountability partner, in the strictest sense, is like an accountant. An accountant doesn’t tell you how to succeed at business. If you are in the red or the black, it’s not the accountant’s fault. Similarly, an accountability partner is someone who keeps track but doesn’t necessarily encourage you to succeed. They tell you when you pass and fail – or, rather, you tell them. I recommend that you find a motivation partner, someone you can trust with your goals and someone who will encourage you to succeed. Find someone who can fulfill the biblical mandate to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
If you are looking for a bit more training guidance, I recommend you listen to a message presented by our Lead Pastor, Keith Taylor on January 25-26 titled, “Being People of the Book.” It’s both inspiring and insightful with added practical tips. You can access it at this link: http://www.beulah.ca/321604.ihtml