This weekend I read the cover story of Christianity Today, and honestly, it gave me anxiety.
The article is called “Can You Control Yourself?” It dives into the topic of self-control and spiritual discipline, filled with revealing statistics and suggestions for cultivating self-control in our lives.
So why the anxiety? I feel anxiety because I feel pressure to be faithful with all God has given me.
- I need to tend to my marriage and family.
- I need to take care of my physical body.
- I need to cultivate Scripture reading and prayer.
- I need to remain a diligent employee.
- I need to practice my gift of writing.
- I need to expand my mind by reading.
- I need to remember daily and weekly chores.
- I need to invest in my church community.
All these areas require daily discipline to maintain and grow. The thought of striving to be faithful in each of these areas every day overwhelms me. Additionally, by focusing only on being “faithful,” my life is deprived of joy, and stewardship becomes a chore.
So how do we maintain and grow habits of faithfulness through self-control and spiritual disciplines without becoming anxious or joy-deprived? Here are six points to help us along the way:
How do we maintain and grow habits of faithfulness through self-control and spiritual disciplines without becoming anxious or joy-deprived?
1. By knowing our righteousness was already secured for us in Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:21
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
If our righteousness is in Christ, then that means we aren’t fighting FOR approval with God, but we fight FROM a place of approval with God. The verdict in already in and all who trust in Jesus are declared righteous.
2. By embracing grace to fill the space between who we are and who God has called us to be.
2 Corinthians 8:9
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
God will always give us the grace we need to walk uprightly with Him. And even when we do fail, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
3. By committing to the hard work of daily picking up our cross.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
In some ways, following Jesus will never cease to be a burden because it will never cease to be lifestyle of self-denial.
As Bradley Wright shares in his CT article, “the idea that we are to substitute one response for another, regulating our desires and impulses, lies behind every biblical command to obey when we are tempted. We want to worry, but we are to pray. We want to curse, but we are to bless. We want to hate, but we are to love.”
4. By realizing we don’t have to do it alone.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
If we were left to struggle for righteousness on our own, we would be a lost cause. Yet we have the Holy Spirit with us to help us through each day. This companionship gives us to courage to say with Paul, “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
5. By realizing God’s expectation of us is not for instant sanctification but for the process.
1 Thessalonians 4:1, 3
“We ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more…. For this is the will of God, your sanctification.”
Sanctification is not an inconvenience to God. If He wanted, He could beam us off the earth the moment we gave our lives to Christ.
Instead of zapping you with perfection, God desires you to wrestle and walk in such a way that sanctification comes through struggle. His will is your sanctification—that we would participate in the process of becoming more like Christ each day.
6. By keeping our eyes on the future and on the promise of renewed life.
1 Corinthians 13:10
“but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.”
In all our struggles, this is the hope—a day is coming when obedience and self-control will come to us as naturally as breathing. This is the promise of eternity.
God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
Even in our struggle with sanctification, spiritual disciplines, and self-control, we can trust in God for His promise, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
I wonder: When you do find it easiest to practice spiritual disciplines? When do you find it most difficult? I’d love to hear in the comments below.