SOUL BUILDING DISCIPLINES FOR ATHLETES OF GOD

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running the race

1 Tim 4:7 Heb 12:1-2,11-13 2 Tim 2:5 Phil 3:8
• Disciplines are a way of approaching everything else that keeps us from being overwhelmed or off course. Discipline leads to freedom.
• Disciplines strengthen and build fortitude.
• Disciplines direct us to Jesus and give us focus.

Disciplines of Freedom

Abstinence. Forbearance from indulging the natural appetites. Bringing our soul down to “fighting weight.” Strengthens our will and feeds the virtue of self-control (Titus 2:6, 2 Pet 1:6). “If you are earnest in fasting, the enemies that trouble your soul will grow weak.” –John the Short, ancient ascetic.

Simplicity. Tames our desires for possessions. Involves such attitudes as generosity, frugality, and modesty. (Lk 21:1-4; Matt 27:57-60; Acts 16:15; Matt 19:21) Simplicity overcomes avarice, envy, pride, vanity, and pretense; it teaches us to share rather than hoard, to rejoice rather than covet, make the best use of what we have.

Stillness. Psalm 46:10. Withdraw for a time from normal activities so we can place ourselves, alone and silent, in God’s presence. Allowing time to see things from His perspective. (Lk 5:16; Lk 4:14-15; Lk 6:12-16) Letting go of busyness and socializing helps us let go of ambitions, jealousy, unhealthy self-reliance and self-importance. We learn patience, discover tranquility, become able to distance ourselves from disordered lives and loves. We encounter God and ourselves in a powerful way. Agitated water needs stillness to settle the sediment and become clear and usable.

Disciplines of Fortitude

Meditation. Setting aside time to think carefully about what God may be saying through Scripture, spiritual reading, or the thoughts that He brings to mind. We seek a deeper, clearer, fuller understanding of God, ourselves, and our world. We seek wisdom. Ps 77:11-12. We need to heal our minds by soaking them in the truth God reveals to us. Rom 12:2. Feeds our soul by giving it truths to chew on, digest, and assimilate for spiritual energy and fitness (1 Tim 4:6). Reduces mind clutter.

stillnessPrayer. Conversing with God helps us to remain in intimate relationship with Him. Spending time with Him, talking to Him, listening to Him. We receive an infusion of power that heals and strengthens. Must be a habit. Stretches our spiritual muscles as we experience different forms of prayer. Expect answers to soul-searching questions, daily needs.

Reticence. Controlling the tongue, thinking before we speak, listening more than we talk, restraining ourselves from speaking whenever silence would better serve the situation. (Ps 141:3; James 3:5-6; Prov 10:19; Prov 25:11) “How can we guard our heart if our tongue leaves the door of the fortress open?” –Sosius, an ancient wise man. Teaches us patience and humility and strengthens our self-control for the race.

Disciplines of Focus

Stability. Staying put when we ought to stay put; a willingness to work with the situation God has given us rather than always coveting another situation we think would be better; a refusal to run from our problems. If we can’t find contentment where we are, we won’t find it anywhere else. Teaches us the truth about ourselves, helps us purify our intentions and focus. Replaces misguided ambition or irresponsibility with contentment and accountability. Ask God for wisdom to discern your ambitions, goals, and desires, are they unrealistic or contrary to His will.

Worship. The joy of worship is a choice of the will, not of feelings. (Rev 4:11; Heb 13:15; Heb 10:25) Takes our eyes off ourselves and our problems to focus on who God is and what He has done for us. Worship robs temptation of its power. Offer a sacrifice of praise even in bad or sad times. Times of worship are the “stops” we take to get the “deep breaths” our spirits need to continue the race.

run strong
Going the Distance

• Be distance runners, not sprinters.
• All is by divine grace.
• Observe moderation. Excessive discipline leads to discouragement and giving up.
• One rule doesn’t fit all. Do what you can according to your own capacity and needs.
• There is a season for everything, different disciplines for different stages of the race, uphill, downhill, around curves, straight and level paths. Or for different times of growth (planting, growth, fruit bearing, pruning, dormancy).
• Don’t judge others in the practice of their disciplines.
• Don’t give up. Take it one day at a time. Habits need practice and perseverance.
• Trust God to provide you the endurance and discipline to run and finish the race.

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Source: Excerpts from Paul Thigpen, DJ Sept/Oct 2004

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