Today's post was written by our Women's Minister, Dawn Stephens.
I never thought the word disciplined would ever be in my vocabulary, let alone as a possible blog post! I have never thought of myself as disciplined in any way, except maybe in finishing tasks on a to-do list.
But I have been on a journey this past year that has affected the way I think about discipline in many areas of my life, and that journey has taken me away from the wrong thinking of “I will always be this way” to the right thinking of “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
I often have to fight this wrong thinking and the feelings of being defeated and “stuck” in areas of my life, specifically my weight management and health. I have to remind myself that I do have control over what I choose to eat and how much I choose to exercise as well as over how I respond to daily stress that may drive me to unhealthy choices, words, actions or thoughts. Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing - just to breathe and ask God to help me not make a bad choice in that moment. Also, looking carefully at how my time is spent in wasteful ways has been helpful because being disciplined in any area of life takes focus, planning, and forethought.
I started back to seminary last fall to complete a degree in Christian Education, and the first book we read was, you guessed it, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney. I can wholeheartedly recommend this book for all believers at any age and life stage. It was quite an encouraging book to me and one that I will review again because it taught me how doable being more spiritually disciplined can be.
At about the same time, I started a weight loss and healthy living plan facilitated by Weight Watchers that has given me tools to think about every bite I eat and to adjust those to healthier options each day. But, in addition to those tools, I have a great group of friends on this same plan, facilitated by a Facebook group of encouragement, ideas, recipes, and tips each week.
After reviewing Whitney’s chapters again a few weeks ago at our staff retreat, I have a few thoughts I pray encourage you today:
- We are naturally women who want what we want when and how we want it, and we can only live a more disciplined life by the Holy Spirit helping us every day, every bite by bite of life. I am making much healthier options with my diet and exercise, but I have so far to go in other areas of my life. I would encourage you to ask yourself, what areas of my life need more discipline and less self focus?
- We are naturally women who run from anything what moves us away from our fleshly desires and toward holiness. But we have I Timothy 1:7 that tells us, ”for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” We have been given self-control along with power and love.
- The older I get, the more I feel the need for Spirit-infused self-control in all areas of my life - my thoughts, my words, my actions, even my body language and countenance. I would encourage you to ask yourself, what areas of my life need more self-control and in what areas do I need to relinquish control?
- We are naturally women who can do nothing well apart from our total and moment-by-moment dependence on the Holy Spirit. We will naturally choose to depend on what we can control, manipulate, plan, or create instead of trusting God and on what He chooses to control in His goodness and grace in our lives. I would encourage you to ask yourself, "What am I trying too hard to control and manage in my own strength, and what are the effects of that control on my relationships, my ministry, and my own well being?"
Our study of the Word, our prayer faithfulness, our time alone in solitude, our worship both personally and corporately, and our faith along with other disciplines contribute to a life of self-control and one that shows others that God is giving us the ability to die to self and to live under His control.
Also, our need for friends and community is vital to healthy living. Are you in community, or are you isolating in work, ministry, kids, or various time-wasters?
When we allow this verse from Hebrews to live in our hearts, then we make choices that show “the Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid” (Heb. 13:6), and it gives us strength know Christ is right beside us helping us make healthy and sound choices that lead us to godliness.
Just recently I realized that I no longer desire the unhealthy things I used to want to eat, and I am making better choices in what I choose to eat. But that has taken one full year for those habits and choices to start to lean toward healthier options. Now, I still can and do make poor choices. But they are fewer, and hopefully, I recognize them quicker and make an adjustment.
Be encouraged that it does take time (it may be different for each of us) for new habits, ways of thinking, and “go to” foods (a.k.a. choices, thoughts, actions) in our lives to become healthier and more Christ–like. It takes time for those feelings of being defeated and stuck to start to dissipate and for us to understand what got us in this place and how to grow from it.
We’ve heard “it takes 21 days for a new habit to be created,” but I want to debunk that theory and say that it takes as long as it takes for each of us to create new healthy habits in our lives. It takes as long as it takes…until we go home to Christ, for us to be fully sanctified.
Get going. Take one step toward godliness and away from your natural desires and see how God will empower and lead you each step of the way.