Hi there. I’ve been thinking recently about a message I heard on discipline and following Christ. The gist of the message was that knowing God takes discipline. We have to intentionally read, study, and listen on a regular basis to build a relationship with our Father, just like it takes intentional time to build a relationship with a friend.
I struggle a lot with discipline. I don’t think I’m alone though. Society has trained us to want instant gratification or to want someone else to do the work for us. Fast food, Postmates, Amazon Prime delivery, and grocery pick-up are some real world examples of this. Discipline just isn’t in our nature anymore. Which is funny because we all want the outputs of a disciplined life. But that’s just it – we want the outputs. I think we may care more about what others are seeing on the outside, rather than what’s being built on the inside. However, if we’re going to deepen our relationship with God and step out of captivity into freedom, we’re going to have to learn how to be disciplined.
Last week, I opened our study talking about how God fights our battles. Through the power of the Spirit, God has equipped us to stand firm against any spiritual ambush so that we can take every enemy arrow captive in the name of Christ. God doesn’t ask us to stand in the battle unprotected though. He provides everything we need to stay safe – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Our battle armor is described in Ephesians 6 when Paul calls us to stand firm against the devil. Standing firm doesn’t always require us to physically stand up, but I do like the physical element Paul brings in here. How many of us want to stand at all times? That’s exhausting! And it would require lots of discipline to get our bodies in shape for that. Putting the physical imagery aside, this command is a call to be alert and watchful of the enemy’s schemes.
A belt of truth. Let’s stop here for a moment and look at this from a practical standpoint. A belt is a piece of material that you wrap around your body to hold something up. If we’re commanded to put on a belt of truth, Paul is saying we need to wrap ourselves in truth so that truth can hold us up.
If you’re anything like me, it's very easy to get distracted by Satan’s lies. My hardest critic is often myself and social media has made it even harder for me to separate fact from fiction these days. Instagram gets me the most. Cool clothes, spontaneous trips, home decor, puppies, and perfect relationships – it all stares me down every time I open the app, and feelings of jealousy wreck my body. For as long as I can remember I’ve struggled with comparison and it’s not a fun ride.
I took a break from Instagram at the beginning of 2019 for that very reason. I was stuck in comparison mode and nothing was pulling me out, so I deleted the app off my phone and didn’t check it for a month. I eased back into it by only logging in from the browser, and then a month or two after that I redownloaded the app. The comparison bug isn’t as strong as it was before, but I still have my moments. And Satan uses those moments to get under my skin and feed me lies about myself. All of which go against who God says I am.
The only reason I know this though (and believe it!) is because I immerse myself in God’s truth on a regular basis. It’s difficult for me to know God if I don’t develop a relationship with Him. I think we may say we love God, but our actions don’t always follow suit and God is wondering where we’re at. He wants to know when we’re going to show up. But we’re over here, myself included, messing around in our undisciplined lives, telling ourselves lies that we’ll get it together eventually. And Satan is using these lies to wedge us into his corner over and over again. If we’re not grounded in the truth then these lies are going to get louder.
Through daily Bible reading, journaling, and resting in God’s presence, I’ve learned to identify His voice and hear it above all the other noise. Because His voice is so prominent in my life, I’ve learned to distinguish fact from fiction, truth from lies. And keeping myself bound in truth helps me fight the mental game the enemy throws my way.
Hebrews 12:10-11: “For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Paraphrasing, this says that discipline yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those that are trained by discipline. Peaceful fruit of righteousness. Righteousness. The second element of our armor that Paul reminds us to put on: “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.” (Ephesians 6:14)
Righteousness is a big word, and honestly, it’s one I’ve struggled to understand throughout my faith journey. Whenever I hear the word righteousness I immediately think of Abraham and Hebrews 11. But righteousness is so much more than that. It’s a characteristic of our God and something we’re able to be only through His grace. God, as the righteous judge, extends grace to us and invites us into Himself. Romans 1:16-17 says that God’s righteousness is revealed through His plan of salvation, and that those who are righteous will live by faith (faith in He who has come and what He promises).
Philippians 3:8-9 also couples righteousness with faith, and says:
Backing up just a bit, righteousness is also that peaceful fruit. Coming back to the armor specifically, putting on the breastplate of righteousness translates to us protecting our hearts with peace, guarding our emotions.
Anyone else want some peace today? This week? This month? I shared that I struggle with comparison, and that struggle does not often leave me feeling peaceful. I also over-analyze everything. Every conversation, every action, every text message, every comment made in a work meeting, every email that doesn’t come with a greeting. You name it, I over-analyze it. Between the comparing and the over-analyzing, my emotions are in a constant flurry of anxiety that needs to be calmed down.
So, what do I do? I turn to the Word. I find so much peace in seeking truth and it always calms my raging thoughts and diminishes my anxiety. I have to be intentional about opening the Word when I’m anxious though. More often than not, my first thought is to text a friend or search the Internet to see how others have handled similar situations. But when I take the time to be disciplined, sitting with God for a few minutes and giving Him back my heart, my faith kicks in and the peace of a righteous God takes over. And that faith and that peace will protect my heart in the middle of my battle.
I’ll leave you with this. One of my favorite verses is in 2 Timothy 3 and it says:
It’s so good, y’all. God’s Word teaches us truth and trains us in righteousness so that we can be equipped for every good work – and our good work is this: to stand firm in the fight.
I'll see you again soon.