If you are new to disciple making, you may or may not know what spiritual disciplines are or know of their purpose.
In 1 Timothy 4:7b Paul instructs his disciple, Timothy, to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” Therefore, every disciple maker is tasked with this same instruction. We are to discipline (train as diligently as an Olympic athlete) ourselves unto godliness.
In 1 Timothy 4:7, the Greek word for discipline is gumnazo. The word means to exercise vigorously, in any way, either the body or the mind. It conveys the picture of the rigorous, persevering, painstaking, diligent, strenuous, self-sacrificing training an athlete undergoes for a perishable prize, and which the Christian “athlete” should be willing to undergo for an imperishable prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) which in the present context is “godliness” a “prize” that is profitable for this life and the life to come.
In ancient Greece, the word gumnazo was used to describe naked Olympians. They believed clothing hindered their speed, so they threw off all their clothing and competed in their birthday suits. So it is with a Christian disciple, we must throw off anything and everything that hinders us from whole-heartedly pursuing the spiritual disciplines that reap a harvest in this life and the next. We may need to throw off time with friends, family, obsessive exercise, television, or anything that takes time away from our obedience to Christ.
Think back to that time of life when you learned everything you now accomplish unconsciously.
We all learned to walk and talk at some point, but how many of us remember our first step or our first word? It took an innate discipline to learn to talk and walk, but we were unaware of it at the time. We are more likely to remember learning to ride a bicycle for the first time or learning to swim. Did you jump into the pool the first time and swim? How many times did you fall from that bike before you mastered the precise balance to stay upright? Most of us will remember those feeble attempts at learning something new that was frightening or extremely difficult to master, but we persevered unto proficiency.
The Good Lord supplies the will within us to do the disciplines of the faith and it is our requirement to provide the way or means of undertaking them. Spiritual disciplines require persistent dedication if we are to gain an ounce of benefit from them.
Since we remain disciples of Christ for all eternity, our learning never ceases. Our growth as a disciple is a lifelong journey which is accomplished by means of spiritual disciplines.
Some of us may only apply ourselves to one or two of the spiritual disciplines and others may practice most or all of them.
In 1 Timothy 4:7, Timothy is encouraged to discipline himself for the purpose of godliness. This godliness is an outward piety which does not necessarily denote an inherent holiness. In practicing the spiritual disciplines, we become acquainted with The One who has saved us. When we practice the disciplines with fervency, our knowledge of Him and His holy principles become engraved upon our hearts. It is a transmogrification that occurs imperceptibly to the one engaging with persistent regularity. Therefore, we are developing spiritual muscles which prepare us to train others.
Did you catch that?
PRACTICING THE SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES IS FOR OTHERS
This nugget of wisdom came to me as I was reading Isaiah 58:10-11
And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
“And the LORD will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
In practicing the spiritual disciplines habitually, the result is preparedness to teach and train others. We give ourselves to the hungry. The hungry aren’t only the physically hungry, but those who are spiritually hungry. “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) As we are practicing the spiritual disciplines, the Lord is filling us with choice morsels that will feed others – most often, without our perception.
Matthew Henry says it well, “See here what is the surest way for a man to make himself illustrious; let him study to do good. He that would be the greatest of all, and best-loved, let him by humility and industry make himself a servant of all.”
As we submit ourselves to the disciples of the faith, He is actively at work within us. It may seem like a drudgery at times, but if we consider His presence with us, we may be assured that the time spent practicing the spiritual disciplines is never in vain. It is the proverbial plowing of an idle field; we are tilling fallow ground to bring forth new growth.
It is the Lord who will redeem our time and diligence by putting us in circumstances that will lead to, not only our own godliness, but disciple making opportunities.
Press on, faithful one!
Click the links below for lists of the Spiritual Disciplines:
(As you will see, there are different methods and means suggested. Do not let yourself be overwhelmed thinking you must practice each discipline every day. I find that I can read one bible verse and meditate on it all day long. Or I will encounter a bible verse that sends me to my knees in repentance and confession. DO NOT allow the disciplines to become a legalistic obligation. Enjoy the disciplines – in doing so, you will witness the fruit of your commitment!
Richard Foster’s List of Spiritual Disciplines with descriptions PDF
 Henry, Matthew, Commentary on the Whole Bible, https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/isaiah/58.html