The Disciplined Life

Are Christians as disciplined as we should be?

Habit-forming is big business, and it has been for more than two centuries. Ben Franklin was one of the first of the modern era to recommend the studied development of certain core practices, designed to shape him into a respectable and productive person. The late Steven Covey is probably the habit guru most familiar to our generation.

According to Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, the enthusiasm for mastering the best habits is not likely to abate any time soon (“The lost hope of self-help,” Aeon, 23 February 2016).

A habit is a “learned behavior repeated so often that it becomes involuntary.” We all need good habits, but good habits alone are not enough. We also need disciplines, repeated practices that require conscious exertion and are amenable to continuous improvement.

Habits contribute to disciplines, while disciplines build on and combine habits into specific functions or activities that determine the shape and course of our lives. Reading is a habit. Reading Scripture with meditation and prayer is a discipline. Greeting people is a habit. Getting to know them and taking the time to converse is a discipline.

And over both habits and disciplines, we need a moral and spiritual outlook that will turn those habits and disciplines to Kingdom progress.

Habits and disciplines are about how we use the time God grants us each day, so the clearer and more compelling our vision of God and His Kingdom, the more effective will be our habits and disciplines in enabling us to realize more of its presence, promise, and power.

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