1 Corinthians 9:26-27 (NRSV)-
26 So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NRSV)-
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Serving one another and God with right hearts and right intentions takes character. And, this type of character is a discipline that is developed over time.
I once read that it takes twenty one days of consistent and disciplined activity to form a habit. Although some may think, “Just 21 days of waking up early to reading the Bible and spending time with God, and I will have spiritual discipline and character.” Unfortunately, it does not work like that.
Spiritual self-discipline is not a pursuit that we simply force into habit. If this were the case, there would be little need for the Holy Spirit in our lives. Moreover, there would be little need of the fruits of the Spirit. This begs the question then, how do we become more self-disciplined in our spiritual lives?
Consider what Jeff Iorg states in his book, The Character of Leadership, “No fleshly effort will please God or build true discipline. Self-discipline refers to self as the object of discipline rather than its source. Even though discipline is learned, and self is the object of the discipline, the motivation and power to develop discipline comes from the Spirit.”
In order to become self-disciplined, we need to stop trying to take on the Spirit’s role as the source of life-changing power. Rather, we should rely on the strength that the Spirit will faithfully work within us. By doing so, we will realize that our motivation to become spiritually disciplined comes from the work of the Spirit within our lives.
If our motivation is not coming from the Holy Spirit, then we will continue in vain and fail in the practice of self-discipline. So, when our motivation is of an eternal scope that derives from the Spirit, we will have the strength to run with perseverance the race that is set before us.