With our emphasis on knowing God’s Word in 2018, we’re excited for this new series on spiritual disciplines. Each month, we’ll unpack a different spiritual discipline, defining it as well as offering some ideas for practical application!
Clayton groaned when I pulled a familiar book off the kitchen shelf. “Not again … why do we have to read this every night?”
I smile when I remember that book and those nights. The book which drew such protest from our high school freshman was “100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know.” And, even though Clayton was a few years away from graduation, we pulled out the book each night following dinner and tried to guess definitions. I thought it was fun; Clayton thought it was the very essence of cruel and unusual punishment.
We learned words like “indolent.” Perhaps you know someone who meets the qualifications. The word means “disinclined to work or exertion.” Ouch! What a great adjective. But what an awful label.
And then there was the beautiful sounding word “bellicose.” Even though the word sounds so lovely and lyrical, it actually means “warlike or hostile.” Not so pretty after all!
There were downright fun-to-say words like “enervated” or “indefatigable.” Now there’s a mouthful. The first means to be drained of energy and the latter means to be tireless. Aren’t words splendid, spectacular, and sublime?
Even though I am a big-time lover of words, I do understand Clayton’s high school antipathy (there’s another gem) toward learning new terms. It takes discipline to grow a vocabulary, and discipline is neither natural nor easy.
I understand because I have felt that way about investing regular time in the Word each day. It takes discipline to grow a spiritual vocabulary filled with memorized truth.
When it comes right down to it, I don’t like discipline any more than my son did. But I’m learning something that I know he’s also learning as an adult: discipline will always lead to delight, and delight will always lead to desire.
But hold on there! Don’t we usually assume that desire comes first? You know, we find something delightful that we desire to do, and then it’s easy to do it. It seems that delight should lead to desire, and then discipline is the natural next step.
Not so, sister!
Discipline leads to delight. And delight will always lead to desire.
Did you get that? When we dedicate ourselves to the Word and discipline ourselves to read and memorize it, the fruit of that discipline becomes sweet in our lives—it will bring us delight.
And don’t we desire those things in which we delight?
Learning is a discipline, and the longer we discipline ourselves in the Word, the more our delight grows. We enjoy discovering. We are challenged as we study. We find sheer joy in every “ah, ha.” And then we want more and more and more and more! We desire what delights us. But it begins with and is sustained by discipline.
Discipline isn’t always easy! But it doesn’t have to be as hard as we make it sometimes. When it comes to disciplining yourself to learn, start small and doable. Just like a runner who prepares for a marathon disciplines herself to run each day, we do the same by studying God’s Word each day. But that runner doesn’t run 20 miles the first day she sets out to train for her marathon, does she? She starts small and stays steady. As her stamina grows, so does her work out.
The same applies to us. We start with a few verses. We discipline ourselves to read, study, meditate, and memorize. We start small and stay steady. Our delight will grow, and our desire will get stronger.
I’ve recognized that for me, I learn more when I read less. I read the Bible daily, but I only read a few verses a day. (Hold your gasp! I’ll explain!) For example, when I’m reading a book of the Bible, I may only camp on three to five verses a day. In the morning, I type them into my iPhone. (I would write them on a note card, but, I’m blind and my iPhone reads to me!) I begin with listening to those few verses over and over. I ask myself the following questions: (I call these the four Cs.)
- What does this teach me about the character of God?
- What does this reveal about the condition of my heart?
- What needs to change in my life, so the condition of my heart is more like the character of God?
- What other verses or stories in Scripture connect to this concept?
After I spend some focused time praying, studying, and meditating on the verses using my four Cs, I then carry those verses around with me all day! I listen to them as much as possible. I ponder them. I pray them. I often memorize one of them. I learn so much because the Holy Spirit is our teacher. And, though it takes some discipline, I barely notice because it brings so much delight!
Sometimes we moan when it comes to discipline. In fact, we can all become downright indolent and enervated sometimes. (Wink!) But, my sister, we can be indefatigable, pick up the Book (or the iPhone with the Bible app) each day, and learn something from His Word. You can do this because you can do “all things through Christ” who will give you strength! (Phil. 4:13). So as soon as you finish reading this blog, do it, sister! Begin the discipline of learning. It will be a beautiful way to love God with “all your mind.” One day you will realize that what began as discipline has now become pure, perfect, genuine, absolute, and complete delight.
“Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and the rejoicing of my heart.” Jeremiah 15:16, NKJV
Jennifer Rothschild is a nationally known author, speaker and Bible study teacher who has written 14 books, including the bestsellers Lessons I Learned in the Dark, and Me, Myself and Lies. Jennifer just completed filming her 6th video-based Bible study called Psalm 23: The Shepherd with Me, which will release in August 2018. Her newest project is the 4:13Podcast with Jennifer Rothschild debuting in September 2018.