The Christian life requires great effort. Does that make you nervous? If it does, then read this, but this post isn’t about Christian effort, it is about how to grow in self-discipline.
Over at the Grace to You website, there is a small article I thought would benefit the youth of my church (actually any Christian at all). The article is a list of tips to develop self-discipline. I know quite a few young men (in particular) that desperately need to grow in the realm of self-discipline and I know that this is an ever important topic for all Christians to grasp well. Pastor MacArthur gives a brief explanation of his list:
“These practical suggestions may not seem to involve any deep spiritual principles. Yet you cannot split your life into the secular and the spiritual. Instead you must live every aspect of your life to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). And self-discipline cultivated in the seemingly mundane things of life will spill over into the spiritual realm.”
Here are his simple points to help you to that end:
START WITH THE SMALL THINGS. Clean your room at home or your desk at work. Train yourself to put things where they belong when they are out of place. Make the old adage “A place for everything and everything in its place” your motto. After you’ve cleaned your room or desk, extend that discipline of neatness to the rest of your house and workplace…Learning self-discipline in the little things of life prepares the way for big successes. On the other hand, those who are undisciplined in small matters will likely be undisciplined in more important issues.
GET ORGANIZED. Make a schedule, however detailed or general you are comfortable with, and stick to it. Have a to-do list of things you need to accomplish. Using a daily planning book or a personal information manager program on your computer would be helpful. But get organized, even if all you do is jot down appointments and to-do items on a piece of scrap paper. The simple reality is that if you don’t control your time, everything (and everyone) else will.
DON’T CONSTANTLY SEEK TO BE ENTERTAINED. When you have free time, do things that are productive instead of merely entertaining. Read a good book, listen to classical music, take a walk, or have a conversation with someone. In other words, learn to entertain yourself with things that are challenging, stimulating, and creative. Things that are of no value except to entertain you make a very small contribution to your well-being.
BE ON TIME. If you’re supposed to be somewhere at a specific time, be there on time…Being punctual marks a life that is organized. It reveals a person whose desires, activities, and responsibilities are under control. Being on time also acknowledges the importance of other people and the value of their time.
KEEP YOUR WORD. If you say you’re going to do something, do it–when you said you would do it and how you said you would do it. When you make commitments, see them through. That calls for the discipline to properly evaluate whether you have the time and capability to do something. And once you’ve made the commitment, self-discipline will enable you to keep it.
DO THE MOST DIFFICULT TASK FIRST. Most people do just the opposite, spending their time doing the easier, low priority tasks. But when they run out of time (and energy), the difficult, high-priority tasks are left undone.
FINISH WHAT YOU START. Some people’s lives are a sad litany of unfinished projects. In the words of poet John Greenleaf Whittier, For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: “It might have been!” If you start something, finish it. Therein lies an important key to developing self-discipline.
ACCEPT CORRECTION GLADLY. Correction helps you develop self-discipline by showing you what you need to avoid. Thus, it should not be rejected, but accepted gladly. (Prov. 19:20; 15:31-32).
PRACTICE SELF-DENIAL. Learn to say no to your feelings and impulses. Occasionally deny yourself pleasures that are perfectly legitimate for you to enjoy. Skip dessert after a meal. Drink a glass of iced tea instead of having that banana split that you love. Don’t eat that doughnut that caught your eye. Refraining from those things will remind your body who is in charge.
WELCOME RESPONSIBILITY. Volunteer to do things that need to be done. That will force you to have your life organized enough to have the time for such projects.
Remember the instructions of Paul, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
You can read the whole post here.