Exercising Our Will “Muscles” Part 1: Learning to ENJOY Discipline

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I can’t help it! Just this once. I’ll start tomorrow. Just one more bite….

Ever find yourself saying these things? We all have. But how do we change? How do we stop a bad habit or begin a new one?

By exercising our will “muscle.”

Most of us have flabby muscles when it comes to disciplining ourselves. Our spirit may be willing, but our flesh is weak (Mat 26:41).

Exercise and discipline are dirty words in most of our vocabularies. But I have actually come to enjoy exercise. Yes, I know I’m strange, but I also know I am not alone! Part of the pleasure comes from the euphoric substances produced by the brain during exercise. But I also like the benefits of a healthier body, and greatly dislike the consequences of not exercising.

So if we can learn to enjoy exercise which involves a lot of effort, could we also learn how to enjoy other “difficult” activities. Can we learn the important disciplines of living a godly life—and enjoy them? Yes! I will discuss how in this series.

Let’s start with some basics.

Our ability to choose is part of our beautifully created and complex design. Theologian Ryrie says,

“Man is like a diamond with its many facets. Those facets are not separate entities, yet they reflect various aspects of the whole.”[i]

These aspects include: personality, temperament, spirit, emotions, passions, motivations, conscience, mind, flesh, and will. They are all are inter-related—each facet influencing all the others.

We are all wired differently. Some are strong-willed, others more compliant.

Additionally, there are other factors that influence our will-power such as: past experiences, current circumstances, physiological condition, and our relationship with God and others. Not to mention the spiritual forces of the world, Satan, and our sinful nature. No wonder it’s so hard to consistently choose God’s way!

Nevertheless, there is hope for us, because God is also in the picture, exerting His influence.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. (Tit 2:11-13)

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness…knowledge…self-control…perseverance…godliness…brotherly kindness…love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(2 Pet 1:3-8)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…. (Gal 5:22-23)

It is a battle. But it’s already been won! To experience this victory in your everyday life you must bring all of yourself—including your will under God’s control, His management. Actually, you are not to be self-controlled, but Spirit-controlled. The original Greek word in the first two passages carries the idea of proceeding out from within oneself, but not by oneself.[ii]

You don’t control yourself, but rather restrain yourself with the help of the Holy Spirit.

As you allow God to manage your choices—and the rest of you—your godly nature grows stronger; your will muscle becomes less flabby. Yielding your will is how God enables you to choose His way for His glory.

We can choose His way—the best way—for our sake and His!

 

Next time: 10 Steps to Lasting Change

 

[i] C. Ryrie Basic Theology

Photo by Limor Zellermayer on Unsplash

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®.  NIV®.  Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica.  All rights reserved worldwide