Most well taught Christians recognize that having a regular time of Bible reading and prayer is absolutely vital for their spiritual growth. The challenge is making it happen. Most of us are by nature undisciplined and since we live busy lives filled with multiple obligations and distractions God is the One who most often gets bumped off our schedule. We make time for the things that are most important to us but, sadly, he often doesn’t make it onto that list. How are we to remedy this? Part of the solution lies in one unpopular word . . . discipline! We will not get into a regular rhythm and routine of meeting with God in his Word and in prayer without rugged discipline. We have to learn to handle ourselves, especially our feelings and our natural desire for comfort and ease if we’re going to win this battle.
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, the apostle employs an illustration from athletics to drive this point home. He writes,
“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 a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
Discipline means making my body my slave by doing what I may not feel like doing, and doing so over and over until it becomes a habit of life. As time goes by we begin the reap the rewards. We begin to enjoy the sweetness of God’s Word and the joy of his presence and drudgery turns into delight.
One of the keys in this process is to just keep starting over. If you miss a few days, start over. If you go on holiday or travel overseas on business and your daily routine is broken, start over. If you sin and don’t feel close to God, start over. Don’t give up! Start over!
Writing to Timothy, Paul again employs an image from the world of physical training to motivate us to discipline in our spiritual walk. “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). With this truth in mind, JUST KEEP STARTING OVER!