The Pursuit of a Spiritually Disciplined Life in 2023

The Pursuit of a Spiritually Disciplined Life in 2023

Author: Pastor Ron Kreager
January 01, 2023

January has arrived, and with it the start of a new year.  As usual, resolutions and goals abound.  But this year, I want to challenge all of us at the Chapel to commit to a unique and specific resolution.

For most people, New Year’s resolutions consist of pledges to lose weight, eat better, exercise more, learn a new skill, or quit a bad habit.  Recognizing that we are not as healthy as we should be, we determine to make a change.  To bring about the physical transformations we desire (e.g., a slimmer waistline, increased muscle mass, less body fat), we implement a well-organized program consisting of a better diet and more exercise.  Then, with a bit of good fortune and a lot of discipline, we start to shed the pounds (or at least that’s what is supposed to happen, right?). 

Good physical health is certainly a worthy goal for all of us.  But I submit to you that our spiritual health is far more important than our physical health.  And good spiritual health, like good physical health, demands discipline.  As those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we ought to have a keen awareness of the importance of our spiritual lives.  So, the challenge for us all is to pursue a spiritually disciplined life in 2023 with the goal of becoming more and more like Christ.     
What is spiritual discipline, and why should we pursue it?

In Scripture, the word “discipline” is used in at least two ways.  First, this word is used to describe the corrective action taken by one in authority over one who is in a subordinate position.  An example of such discipline is found in Proverbs 3:12: “For whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.”  In the spiritual context, corrective discipline addresses a specific sin that has already occurred for the purpose of preventing it from happening again in the future or becoming a lifelong pattern.  This is not the type of discipline we have in view here.

Rather, the discipline we are pursuing is formative discipline.  This is what Paul had in mind when he wrote, “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8).  Christian formative discipline focuses on training an individual's character and behavior over time.  It is what we think of when we describe someone as living a “disciplined life.”  While corrective discipline is reactive, formative discipline is proactive. 

Notice two things from the passage in 1 Timothy.  First, Paul is specifically referring to formative discipline in the spiritual realm, which he contrasts with bodily discipline.  The means of discipline are not physical, but spiritual (more on this later).  Second, Paul explains that the practice of spiritual formative discipline is not aimless.  Rather, this discipline has a purpose, to foster godliness in the life of the believer.  Godliness is (or should be) the goal for every follower of Christ.  As we practice spiritual discipline, our devotion to Christ deepens and we are strengthened in our ability to resist the power of sin in our lives. 

What specific areas should we focus on in 2023?

We have learned that the discipline Paul commands us to pursue is spiritual, not physical.  But what does spiritual discipline look like in practical terms?  In his wonderful book on the topic of spiritual discipline, which is available in the Chapel Bookstore, Donald Whitney writes: “The Spiritual Disciplines are the God-given means we are to use in the Spirit-filled pursuit of Godliness.”  Whitney, D. S. (1991). Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (p. 17). NavPress.  Whitney goes on to identify several areas of focus, which he calls (unsurprisingly) “Spiritual Disciplines.”  These Spiritual Disciplines include,

  1. Bible Intake
  2. Prayer
  3. Worship
  4. Evangelism
  5. Serving
  6. Stewardship
  7. Fasting
  8. Silence and Solitude
  9. Journaling
10. Learning

While not exhaustive, this list is very helpful in getting us started down the path of pursuing a spiritually disciplined life in 2023.  Take a moment to look at this list again, and this time ask yourself which areas are most lacking in your life.  Perhaps you read your Bible regularly, so bible intake is not an issue, but you spend little time in prayer.  Have you ever fasted?  Do you spend any time in silence and solitude as you meditate upon the greatness of God and his grace and mercy in your life?  If you’re like me, this list is fertile ground for your pursuit of spiritual discipline. 

A word of caution is needed here.  Recall the familiar story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42.  Remember how Mary was “seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word,” while Martha was “distracted with all her preparations?”  Jesus rebuked Martha because instead of following her Lord she was “worried and bothered about so many things.”  Like Martha, many Christians today live spiritually undisciplined lives because they are simply too distracted to be concerned about spiritual matters.  In our digital age, we can become easily preoccupied by our smart devices.  In addition to abundant technological distractions that bombard us each day, our career pursuits, children’s athletics, dating relationships, and a host of other things divert us from serving Christ.  We must guard against this if we wish to lead spiritually disciplined lives.  If your daily life is filled with worldly distractions, you will have no time to focus on the Spiritual Disciplines outlined above.

With that admonition in mind, I’d like to offer you a practical suggestion as to how we begin to pursue a spiritually disciplined life in 2023.  In Whitney’s book, he conveniently devotes one chapter to each of the Spiritual Disciplines (and two chapters to Bible Intake).  That’s eleven chapters, plus and introductory chapter and a conclusion chapter. 

Starting in January, commit to growing in one Spiritual Discipline per month.  Read the introductory chapter and the first chapter on bible intake in January.  If you do this, you will spend the first two months just on bible intake, which is helpful since the intake of God’s Word is foundational to all the other Spiritual Disciplines.  Each month, focus your attention on the Spiritual Discipline that is addressed in the chapter you read from Whitney’s book.  Diligently pursue growth in that Spiritual Discipline over the course of the month, and then when a new month arrives, begin your pursuit of the next Spiritual Discipline.  Meanwhile, try to retain your growth in the Spiritual Disciplines you have previously pursued. 

Throughout the year, you will have days where you fall short.  Perhaps you forgot to read your Bible or you missed an evangelism opportunity.  That’s okay.  Stay the course.  Don’t allow yourself to fall into the typical trap of setting a yearlong resolution and abandoning it by the end of January.  Instead, persevere as you remember that spiritual discipline brings about greater godliness.  As a church, may we embrace the challenge to pursue a spiritually disciplined life in 2023.  The effort is worth it! 

Suggested resources for the New Year:
1. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney (available in the Chapel Bookstore) or purchase on Amazon
2. Bible Reading Plan (five days per week) Scroll to the bottom for the free download
3. Bible Narrative Reading Plan (perfect for kids and family devotions)
4. 52-week Tune My Heart Catechism (good resource for families and homeschoolers)
5. 2023 Reading Challenge (for the aspiring reader, young and old)






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