How Can I Change? Spiritual Disciplines

Part of the “How Can I Change?” series. See parts onetwothreefourfivesix, seven, and eight

Spiritual Disciplines (1Tim 4:6-10)

Growing up we would go out to Montana to see relatives and stay at my grandparents cabin near Big Sky. One of our favorite things to do was to look for arrowheads. When we would be hiking along a mountain trail my dad would often stoop down and point out shiny, well-cut arrowhead laying on top of the dirt and rocks. I decided that I wanted to be the one to find them first so I would walk ahead on the trail. But I never found any. It was only when I was following my dad would I find arrowheads. Why do you think that is? The answer is pretty simple – he was the one laying them down. I couldn’t find any arrowheads because I was not in the right place to find them. I needed to be behind my dad and look where he was pointing.

In a similar (yet less “deceptive”!) way, God has provided real pathways to an infinitely greater treasure – a fullness of joy in Him. When we place ourself on the path He has laid out and look where He is pointing, He promises that we will experience that Treasure. So, I must choose to put myself in the pathway of blessing.

In 1 Tim 4:6-10, Paul tells Timothy, “6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”

What is the passage saying?

Among many other important things, there are two truths that we must see here:

1. I cannot grow in holiness apart from disciplined living (7-8, 10a; cf. Titus 2:11-14)

2. I cannot grow in holiness apart from God’s grace (10; cf. Titus 2:11-14; 1 Cor 15:10; Col 1:29)


How is it connected to grace?

  • God gives the grace to live a disciplined life
  • God graciously blesses me by making me more like His Son when I live a disciplined life


What will it look like in my life? (How does that actually help me change?)

Example: Eric has stalled out in his spiritual growth. He can remember times in his life when he was growing, turning from sin, and happy in his relationship with Christ. He isn’t in one of those times now. Sin is easy. Saying “no” isn’t. He doesn’t want to read his Bible. He doesn’t pray. He can easily spend 3 hours online, on his phone, or on the computer but never has time to memorize Scripture. Sunday mornings he can’t seem to get up in order to make it to church, and when the smallest hint of homework or extra hours at work comes his way, his time gathered with other believers around the Word is the first thing to go. He wants to want to grow. What do you tell someone like this?


Act. (This is not a “let go, and let God” idea. It is biblical. God expects us to act. We know that it is by His grace that we do so, but He still calls us to obey.)

1. on God’s promise of grace
2. by doing what God promises to bless – we call them “Spiritual Disciplines”

  • Reading your Bible
  • Meditating on its truths
  • Memorizing its words
  • Praying to its Author
  • Meeting with His people
  • Singing about Him
  • Etc.

“Isn’t that hypocritical?” Let me ask you this, “Do you want to want to be like Christ?” If yes, then it isn’t hypocritical. Rather, you are seeking to put yourself in the path to experience the fullness of joy – Jesus!

Imagine I were to take you to a concert hall, sports arena, Olympic stadium, or Broadway stage. I point out someone in front and tell you, “that is you in ten years. You may not feel like you are making any progress in your pursuits right now, but you will. Keep training.” Would that encourage you to train, or discourage you? Would it then be hypocritical for us to say, “I don’t feel like practicing today and I would rather be doing something that gives me instant gratification. However, I want to excel and grow so I am going to keep practicing.” I don’t think so. In the same way, we are directed to the life of Jesus and we are told, “That is what you will be like one day. It is sure. He will make it so. Keep training” (1 John 3:1-3). (See D. Whitney’s book for this illustration)

What can I Do?

  • Did Eric’s story sound like yours?
  • What are you neglecting right now that is keeping you away from the path of blessing?
  • What could your mentor and accountability partners encourage you to do?


 “…typically the grace that sends our roots deepest, truly grows us up in Christ, and produces lasting spiritual maturity, streams from the ordinary and unspectacular paths of fellowship, prayer, and Bible intake in its many forms.” (D. Mathis)


Mathis, David. “Put Yourself in the Path of God’s Grace.Desiring God.
Whitney, Donald S. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997.
Whitney, Donald S. Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health. 1St Edition. NavPress, 2001.
There are many more, but these three are a great place to start and are all worth reading. Start with the blog post and then buy Whitney’s book, Spiritual Disciplines.