The Hidden Benefits of Self-Discipline
By Emily Miller
Having a daily quiet time comes down to self-discipline. Unlike chocolate, social media, and Netflix, our time with Jesus doesn’t give us an instant dopamine hit. Many of us have experienced spiritual highs from church camps or weekend retreats that give us an emotion-fueled desire to spend time reading the Bible and praying. That desire lasts as long as the emotions from the retreat; all too soon, the mundane rhythms of regular life crowd Jesus out. Long-term pursuit of Jesus through daily quiet time is a habit we learn over time.
Learning a habit requires self-discipline. The difficulty for many of us is that our western culture doesn’t teach us the value of self-discipline. Most of our entertainment idealizes throwing off every constraint and following our hearts. In contrast, the Bible highly values self-discipline.
This cultural message has made everything that requires self-discipline (like exercise, budgeting, and Bible reading) almost impossible for us. To combat that message in my life, I like to remind myself of some of the benefits of self-discipline.
1. Self-discipline is good for us.
Self-discipline teaches us self-control. We do what we should whether we want to or not. We work for our long-term good rather than being at the mercy of our short-term desires. We speak truth to our thoughts. We gain more control over ourselves and become less controlled by feelings, temptations, and addictions.
It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to search out matters that are too deep. Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control. (Proverbs 25:27-28 NIV)
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. "I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.” (1 Corinthians 6:12 NIV)
2. Self-discipline in one area affects all areas of our lives.
Self-control is like a muscle. Setting aside an hour to read the Bible takes the same “muscle” we use when we first learn to brush our teeth, eat breakfast, and exercise. Practicing self-discipline in one area gives us more and more ability to do what we don’t feel like doing. Controlling ourselves in one area helps us say no to what’s not good for us in all areas of life. Enduring through frustration teaches us to persevere through all of life’s difficulties.
As Christians we have wonderful purpose: a God to live for, people to love, and Good News to declare! The self-discipline of reading our Bibles each morning builds our overall ability to show hospitality, give generously, endure suffering, serve sacrificially, and become more and more like Jesus in every way.
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. (1 Corinthians 9:24-25 NIV)
3. Self-control gives us assurance.
Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. It is a witness to the fact that our faith is genuine, that we truly belong to Jesus, and that His Holy Spirit really does live within us. Self-control does NOT give us salvation; it is evidence OF our salvation.
How do we know that our self-control is truly from God? We test it. What are our motives?
Godless self-control is often used as a way to make ourselves look impressive, to gratify our pride, and to give us a false sense of control over our lives.
Godly self-control is joined with the other fruit of the Spirit. This means that self-control is shaped by love (not selfishly wanting others to admire us), joy (not grudging obligation), peace (not anxious hoping that we’re good enough), patience (enduring through frustration), kindness (not competing with others), goodness (not as a way to justify sin in another area of our lives), faithfulness (lasting change not flighty resolutions) and gentleness (not as a way to judge others).
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)
Friend, discipline yourself in reading the Bible daily. Not because God will love you more (He can’t love you more than He already does!) but because reading the Bible gives health to your soul! A daily quiet time trains you in the self-control you need to put your sin to death and persevere in faith through your very last breath.
The best news about self-control is that we don’t do it on our own. Jesus helps us. He is a High Priest who knows our weaknesses and temptations, is patient with us, and completes the work He’s begun in us. He is the One Who empowers our self-control.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age… (Titus 2:11-12)
- Write out your own list of the long-term benefits of self-control.
- Make a poster of your favorite self-control verses for your room.
- Persevere in having (or trying to have) daily quiet time with Jesus.
|About Emily: She began having a daily quiet time at the age of 13. This habit has been one of the few constants in her life as she transitioned from being a missionary kid in Mongolia to a barista in Oregon to a stay-at-home mom in central Florida. The Word of God has anchored Emily to Jesus through depression, struggles with doubt, health issues, and her son’s cystic fibrosis.