Hey everybody … Just FYI I’m thinking about changing the rhythm of my publishing, from Fridays to Wednesdays. I’m going to experiment with it for a couple weeks, but feel free to let me know if you have a preference or any thoughts.
I was listening to my friend preach recently, and something struck me about one of the Bible texts he used.
In a message about going out to do something in the world to make a positive impact, he used 2 Timothy 1:7 to talk about our tendency towards fear. Paul wrote to a young leader, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives up power, love and self-discipline.”
The thing that stood out to me was the last phrase: “a spirit of self-discipline.” The more I thought about it, the more it struck me that in this one little sentence Saint Paul sums up virtually the entire purpose of spirituality (at least, when spirituality is lived out practically and thoughtfully).
First of all, I think it’s easy for us to understand the need for the Holy Spirit to give us power and love: that seems like a readily identifiable need for most of us. Besides that, Paul is contrasting the gift of the Spirit with timidity and fear. Most of this should be “old hat” for any of us pursuing the spiritual life: we want supernatural empowerment for courage, love and power.
But then Paul curiously adds that last statement. Why would we need a spirit of self-discipline?
Maybe I’ll write it this way: Why would need a spirit of SELF-discipline?
If the whole point of the Holy Spirit is to empower us from “outside” ourselves, then why does Paul turn it back on to us at the last moment and seemingly put things back in our lap?
Paul is hinting at something that is mostly passed over in discussions about faith, particularly in our modern western context (our ancestors in the faith had a lot of this figured out, fortunately), namely that our spiritual growth depends, in a much more substantial way than we realize, on us arranging our lives in such a way that we can “make room” for God’s Spirit to work in us.
Otherwise why would we need the Spirit to give us the gift of “self-discipline?”
We need the gift of self-discipline to put patterns and habits—like prayer, service, generosity, worship and confession, to mention just a few—into our lives. These patterns then “make room” for the Spirit to move (and, consequently, to give us the power, love and freedom from fear that we crave and need).
So two questions:
- In regards to your spiritual life, what’s your level of self-discipline? How diligently and consistently do you pursue habits of prayer and worship, service and generosity?
- Have you ever considered asking God for the gift—not just of love and power (or whatever else we tend to ask for: jobs, healing, relationships, provision, rescue, etc.)—but of structure and discipline?
Thanks for reading; as usual, please feel free to share and comment.