Today we are cultivating the fruit of the spirit through practical application. I am excited to share some things I have gotten from scripture and the challenges given to me by God.
If you haven’t yet, go back to last week’s article about goal setting to learn more about how self-discipline plays into goal setting.
Self-Discipline of the Spirit, Soul, and Body
Today, our topic is all about the self-discipline of the spirit, soul, and body. 1 Peter 5: 6-9 says: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of a sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of suffering.”
These verses are encouraging to me, especially in the area of self-control concerning all the actions in those verses. Peter says to humble yourself, cast your anxieties, be sober-minded and watchful. All of those are actions that we take and depending on your stage in life, you have to take different actions, right?
There are 3 different areas of action that we take as believers to build self-discipline into our lives regularly. Here recently, some really hot questions in Christian culture have been brought up and I hope to answer them today.
The questions are:
Is it better to be sitting at the feet of Jesus simply depending on Him? OR Is it better to be serving others sacrificially? OR Is it better to practice self-care, self-discipline, and bodily excellence?
We have the example of Mary and Martha working. Mary goes to sit at the feet of Jesus and He says that Mary has chosen the better option. The typical Sunday school answer will probably be to go and sit at the feet of Jesus, and I am not knocking that. Sitting at the feet of Jesus is better than scurrying around trying to get it all done like Martha.
But let’s look at these 3 areas a little differently today.
Many people see value in sitting at the feet of Jesus and cry out for more of that. Many people see the needs of society and the people around us. They cry out for people to serve and lay down their lives to show up for others. There are also plenty of people saying that the way to achieve peace in your life and the way to be able to serve God well is to prioritize your health above other things. We see positive results from all of these things from other people. But where do you see these results?
Sitting at the feet of Jesus
There was a time where I went to Maui for a work-related trip. I left my husband and 7 kids alone for a week. In a turn of events, I was able to have my own room and spent time on the beach reading my Bible. I gave my phone to someone for the week and I was able to hear from God in many different ways during that trip. This is an extreme example to get away and sit at the feet of Jesus. But every day there are little ways that we can sit at the feet of Jesus. During the beginning and end of the day, we can set aside time to be grateful for the provisions He has given us. Sitting at the feet of Jesus is such a precious time.
What about serving others? Has there been a time that it was a delightful experience to serve others? Can you remember a time where it may have taken a lot of hard work, but the result was so great and joyful? Some of my favorite moments have been serving others. At the Bible school where we worked for years, I was involved in foodservice. I would sometimes decide that something decadent was required, despite the resources available. There is nothing like the joy of others, being able to serve them food and watching them be delighted by it. We can pray for something and He provides in a way that is above and beyond anything we ever dreamed of. Service when done this way cultivates joy. Other times, I would make a graduation cake for the students that graduated that year. Some of the cakes were very intricate in their construction. Serving with generosity in my spirit is a valuable way to connect with God and others. Supporting families by removing their concern about necessities like meals can be so rewarding and a blessing to me. Serving as a family is such a joy and cultivating the spirit of teamwork in your own family is rewarding in and of itself. We serve Jesus by serving others.
Then of course there is taking care of me. All of the things that when they are done I can better take care of others. It is much easier for me to take care of other’s needs when I have had my full 8 hours of sleep instead of 2. If I am not putting myself in a place of good mental clarity and patience I am not being a good steward.
Naturally, we all have one of these categories that we gravitate towards. Whether it is sitting at the feet of Jesus, serving, or self-care, they are all important and it is necessary to keep them in balance. There are ditches to fall into with each one. Self-discipline is staying on the road and out of the ditches, no matter the road that you are on.
The key is all about motivation.
- When we are motivated by the choice to surrender to Him, and we are focusing on Jesus and His goodness, then sitting at His feet positioning ourselves in a place of spiritual health is profitable. However, if we are motivated by fear of the unknown and uncontrollable so we try to escape from action you can call it sitting at the feet of Jesus because it sounds good, but is being resistant to stepping out in faith. Have you ever decided that you need to pray more and listen to God longer because you are trying to avoid making a big choice or action? I know I have. To avoid this, we can ask ourselves ‘Am I praying and connecting with Jesus to surrender myself to Him? or Am I praying and connecting with Jesus in hopes that the problem will be solved without me having to take uncomfortable steps?’ When we get to the bottom of it, it is about the motivation of surrender. The acknowledgment that Jesus is Lord and whatever he calls us to we will obey.
- Similarly, serving can also have its own ditch. When we are serving from motivation to God’s call on our lives even when it is difficult, the choice to discipline ourselves towards sacrifice is joyful and rewarding. But, if we are motivated by fear of the unknown and uncontrolled, or to avoid change, we may call that service but it is resistance and fear. I have experienced this myself. Maybe you have been in a place of serving for a long time, but you are feeling the calling to let that go. You may be worried about what will happen if you leave and if someone else will set into that role. Continuing to stay in that position is not a service of sacrifice to the Lord, that is being fearful and choosing to call it service. There is not a motivation of service, but a motivation of fear. To know your own heart behind this issue you can ask yourself: ‘Am I serving because God laid this on my heart or am I serving because I am afraid of what might happen if I don’t?’
- Taking care of your body, health, diet, and exercise requires an equal amount of balance just like the other 2 that we have talked about. When we take care of our needs from a standpoint and motivation of surrender to God, acknowledging that He is on the throne, then our self-care becomes an act of good stewardship of the resources He has given us. However, if we are motivated by pride and that nothing can progress unless we are in perfect alignment then we can call it self-care but it is pride, idolatry of man, and fear of man. I too have experienced this one. Doing things to take care of my body from a place of thinking everything is all up to me, so I must have it all together. You can check in with your motives by asking yourself ‘Is my conscience clear before God about how I am stewarding my physical body and mind?’
I find the instructions that were given to us by Peter in 1 Peter 5: 6-9 intriguing. First, he urges believers to humble themselves before God. This reminds me of the ultimate position of surrender, sitting at the feet of Jesus, serving from a place of surrender or even taking care of ourselves from a place of surrender. Surrendering is honoring our dependence on God and trusting Him in His grace and wisdom. Next, in the 7th verse, Peter encourages us to cast our anxieties on Him. How often is our service more from the fear of outside issues rather than a place of surrender and joyful sacrifice? Acknowledge His power over every situation and only fight the battles that He calls us to fight. If you think that there aren’t severe penalties for going out and fighting battles that aren’t yours, I encourage you to go back and look at the stories in the Old Testament. They are in 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and 2 Kings. They do not have a very good success rate when they are fighting battles that God said no to. It is important to be in service from a place of surrender and believing that God is in control. Our job is to serve where we are called and leave the rest alone. Finally, in verse 8 we are commanded to be sober-minded and watchful. When we aren’t the enemy has an easy target. This includes our physical bodies. I am much more equipped when I am well-rested, properly fueled, and strong physically.
So, back to our original question… Which is more important?
Sitting at the feet of Jesus? Service and sacrifice? or Self-care?
The answer is that they are ALL important when they come from a place of surrender and sacrifice to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. All of these cause us to trust Him inwardly and in action.
What is your natural tendency? Where are you most likely to get out of balance?
I tend to resist sitting at Jesus’ feet. I feel like it doesn’t get anything done, so that is the one I am choosing to focus on this month for self-discipline. I, by faith, choose to surrender all my plans to Him and choose to gaze at His face and listen to His voice first. I am His servant and He is my master.
I would love to know what one self-discipline you are focusing on. You can always reach out to me at email@example.com
If you find this a blessing in your life I would love to hear your stories of how you put this into practice!