Your future is in God's and your hands.
Right from the get-go, understand there are no shortcuts. Abraham Lincoln said, “I will prepare myself and one day my time will come.”
Remember how Lincoln drew upon discipline to persevere:
• 1831 - failed in business
• 1832 - defeated for legislature
• 1833 - again failed in business
• 1835 - sweetheart died
• 1836 - suffered a nervous breakdown
• 1838 - defeated for Speaker
• 1840 - defeated for Elector
• 1843 - defeated for Congress
• 1848 - again defeated for Congress
• 1855 - defeated for Senate
• 1856 - defeated for Vice-President
• 1858 - again defeated for Senate
• 1860 - elected President of the United States
Here are five tips to become more disciplined:
1. Celebrate the reality that discipline is not legalism but freedom and fruit of the Spirit.
We no longer strive by performance and dead works in our Christian life after we have been secured through the acceptance of the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Discipline is a character quality in our lives initiated and sustained by the Spirit of God (Gal. 5:22-23) now that we have been set free from the power of sin to serve the living God! (Rom. 6:11-14).
As new creations, we are empowered to choose not what we feel to do but what we know to do to please God and achieve God’s plan for our lives. Peter tells us that without self-discipline, we will be “ineffective and unproductive” (2 Pet. 1:6, 8), which none of us want as Christ's followers.
2. Repent of any areas of an undisciplined lifestyle.
Once and for all, turn away from all compromising and covering over “besetting sins that have so easily entangled you and run with perseverance the race before you fixing your eyes on Jesus the author and finisher of your faith” (Heb. 12:2).
“Lazy dreamers will never achieve the high goal of spiritual maturity without self-discipline — in appetites, emotions, moods, speech, and priorities.” - Richard Shelley Taylor
I recommend the author’s book The Disciplined Life to dig deeper and derive life-changing results.
Start the new year with a clean slate! Make a quality decision that you will now regulate conduct by principle rather than impulse. “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Eph. 4:1).
When Alexander the Great came upon a soldier asleep at his post, he asked him his name. The trembling soldier said, “Alexander, sir.” The brilliant commander challenged him as Christ does us: “Change your conduct or change your name!”
3. Establish daily, quality communion with God as your first priority.
Jesus set the example. If we can’t establish consistency here, it’s just like missing the first button on a shirt then everything else veers off course. There simply is no substitute for regular time in Scripture and prayer to become the mature, disciplined man or woman of God we're called to be.
“Now in the morning, having risen a great while before daylight, He went out and departed into a solitary place and there He prayed” (Mk. 1:35).
4. Seek out a friend for support.
Jesus sent out the disciples in pairs so they would be accountable and supportive of one another. Disciple means a “disciplined one.” We don’t come to maturity in isolation.
“Two are better than one. … If one falls down, his friend can help him up” (Eccl.4:9-10).
When I was converted at the age of 20, I sought out a friend passionate for Jesus so we could share encouragement and accountability. We took turns calling each other each morning, which helped us get out of bed and get going on the day. From our friendship forged in those early days came a ministry of tens of thousands that spanned the United States and abroad.
5. Start small and stay the course!
Scripture tells us, “Do not despise the day of small beginnings” (Zech. 4:10). Remember the nugget from the 5 million best-seller, Atomic Habits, “Small Changes/Remarkable Results.”
One of the most influential educators and the man considered the “Father of American Psychology,” William James, told us, “Take the first opportunity to act on a good intention!” Don’t wait until tomorrow to seize the opportunity God is putting before you as you cross over into 2022!
Make a quality decision that you are going to persevere in the process. “Starting is easy. Sticking is hard.” As you sit down and write out some of the goals God is giving you for the new year, realize setbacks and discouragements will come but you will not cave!
Develop a disciplined life by starting out in what may appear to be small and insignificant areas of daily living (making your bed, clearing the counter of clutter, being punctual, paying bills on time, etc.). This enables you to develop success and confidence for the more challenging tasks ahead.
Here’s the deal: Make a quality decision right now to "strike while the iron's hot" to make 2022 the finest of your life for the glory of God! "I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it but this one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on to win the prize for the goal for which Christ Jesus has called me heavenward. Let those who are mature be thus minded” (Phil. 3:13-15).