The list of spiritual disciplines we could talk about seems endless. For example, in his best-selling book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster lists no less than twelve spiritual disciplines we can and should practice. He categorizes them as inward, outward, and corporate disciplines. In the previous session, I offered a different way of thinking by listing the mind, body, heart, and soul as the first areas of life that require the kind of spiritual training that leads to godliness (1 Timothy 4:7-8). Other areas that require the same include our time, money, will, and relationships. How we discipline these last four areas of life is a worthy discussion.
Imagine someone depositing $1,440 into your bank account every day. The catch is you must spend it at a rate of $1 per minute or the money will transfer back out of your account. That’s what time is like. Each day contains 24 hours or 1,440 minutes.
Time, of course, is a non-reusable resource. We cannot save time or store it in a retrieval system. As the old saying goes, we must use it or lose it. Truly, time is of the essence because we never get back the time we waste. According to the Bible, we can only redeem it (Ephesians 5:15-16). But what exactly is time?
The famous physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking wrote a book titled A Brief History of Time.Honestly, reading it left me still scratching my head about time.In my opinion, Dr. Stephen Olford, a pastor, offers the best definition of time and certainly one that is less scientific. He says, “Time is a fragment of eternity given by God to man as a solemn stewardship.” In other words, time is a sacred trust for which we will give an account. Time is also a creation concept and the rhythm of life ordained by God (Genesis 1:3, Ecclesiastes 3:1).
We can spend a lot of time and money learning time management techniques. However, nothing motivates me to spend my time wisely more than the thought of one day standing before God and hearing Him ask, “What did you do with the time I gave you on earth?”
A conversation about the discipline of our time leads to the same about money because some people say time is money. As followers of Jesus, the most important question we must answer about money is this: Whose money is it, anyway? Jesus talked more about money than He did heaven and hell combined. He knew that money could easily become the god we worship. That’s why He said point blank, “You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). He also got to the heart of the money matter by saying, “Where your treasure is that’s where your heart is also” (Matthew 6:21).
Transitioning our worldview of money and property from ownership to stewardship is not easy. The material things we possess in life threaten to possess us, and they die a slow death. They are some of the last things to come under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Once we resolve the money matter and accept the fact that all we have belongs to God (Psalm 24:1), and that we are merely His money and property managers (Luke 16:1-14), then we can begin talking about the biblical way to discipline and manage the wealth God has entrusted to us.
Our will also requires discipline and must be brought under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus famously prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).Even Jesus, the sinless Son of God, learned obedience and submission to the Father’s will through suffering (Hebrews 5:8).
Picture a wild stallion that runs freely in the open range but also has the potential to become a thoroughbred racehorse that wins the Kentucky Derby. Horse trainers talk about “breaking” such a horse. In other words, the horses’ will must be brought into compliance with the rider’s will. That’s the only way she will become a champion. In the same way, God who redeemed us also sees great potential in us. But our wild and stubbornly sinful will must be broken and brought in submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Only then will we glorify God and fulfill the purpose for which He created us.
Finally, our relationships require healthy discipline. We were created for community, hard-wired for connection in human relationships. That shouldn’t surprise us because perfect fellowship exists in the triune Godhead between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Also, more than 50 “one another” passages in the New Testament bears witness to the fact that we need each other, whether we are willing to admit it or not. The best place for us to experience authentic, biblical community is in the church, a body of assembled believers in Jesus who, like a family, brings comfort to people in a harsh and sinful world (Acts 2:42-47).
This blog is an excerpt from Starting Point: A Disciple's First Steps. Starting Point is an online discipleship coaching experience by Dr. Ron Jones.