Putting God’s power to work in our marriages is something we may all want, but when it comes to actually doing what it takes for this to happen, that is something entirely different. That’s because, as I (Steve) read the scriptures, I realize that in order to put God’s power to work in my marriage it is going to involve my being disciplined and obedient to what God reveals to me that I need to do, or be.
Oh, I very much want God’s power to help me be a better husband. It’s the work I have to do in order to experience His blessing that I don’t like. You would think that after nearly 40 years of marriage that it would come easier, but at least for me, it hasn’t.
Self-discipline is an area of life that I believe many of us as couples and individuals struggle with. In Jim and Elizabeth George’s book, Powerful Promises For Every Couple [no longer being published], they say,
“There’s no doubt about it —this is the character quality everyone loves to hate! But to do the work God calls us to do —whether at home, at work, at church, or on the mission field —we must incorporate self-discipline into our everyday life.”
In this message we’re going to share principles, which the George’s explain, relates to God’s promise in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” They explain the importance of:
Understanding the Promise:
1. Self-discipline involves your mind. Paul reminded Timothy that “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” God’s promise of discipline included the idea of a secure and “sound mind” (NKJV):
- A mind that was disciplined
- A mind that could understand the implications of proper and improper behavior, and
- A mind that had the ability to “think so as to have sound judgment” (Romans 12:3).
This is the kind of mental toughness that allows you, as separate entities and as a twosome, to also experience success without becoming proud and to suffer failure without becoming defeated.
2. Self-discipline involves your body. When you live a life of godly discipline, every area of your life is in proper order—including your mind and body. As you well know, when you exercise self-discipline over your mind, it affects your body. You show restraint in what you eat and in how you act, both at home together and when you are apart.
So that you can do your part in advancing the cause of Christ, both your mind and body need to be working in harmony. Just as you discipline your mind, you are to discipline your body. As Paul said, you are to “buffet” your body so that you don’t become its slave, but rather, so your body becomes your slave. (1 Corinthians 9:27)
3. Self-discipline has a “twin sister.” When God’s Holy Spirit comes into your life at salvation, He brings a number of godly attitudes and traits with Him. (It’s a good idea to read the entire list in Galatians 5:22-23 together. This mutual accountability will keep you on your toes!)
One of these behaviors, or “fruit” as they are called, is self-control. As a believer, you have the Holy Spirit’s power within you to help you restrain your passions and appetites. You have the ability to say no to fleshly desires. The twin sister, self-control, will enable you to develop self-discipline.
4. Self-discipline is required in Scripture. Like most godly attitudes that God requires of us, self-discipline does not come automatically. That’s why you are required to “exercise… self-control in all things” (1 Corinthians 9:25). You are also required to “apply all diligence [and]… self-control” (2 Peter 1:5-6).
How can you develop greater self-discipline?
- Walk in God’s Spirit.
- Apply God’s self-control in every situation.
- Do the work required of you to develop godly discipline.
Jim and Elizabeth George go on to encourage us to make our own list of areas of our lives where we need self-discipline. They listed five things that they continue to both work on that most of us could identify with:
1. Spiritual Life
2. Mental Life
3. Physical Life
4. Work Life and Home Life
5. Financial Life
Let’s face it, all it takes is just one of these areas to be out of balance… or to lack self-discipline… and it can create havoc in the relationship.
We challenge you to take a few minutes as a couple this week to go through this list and talk about how YOU see it applying to your marriage. Then prayerfully discuss the ways you can begin to develop the healthy practice of self-discipline so that you too can experience God’s power at work in your marriage. (If you don’t have a spouse who will do this with you, let this be your personal challenge to do what is right—even if they won’t.) As you begin, remember:
THE NATURE OF DISCIPLINE:
• Discipline is a spiritual issue —everything done to the glory of God (See: Philippians 1:27 which tells us to conduct ourselves “in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” And also 1 Corinthians 10:31 which says “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”)
• Discipline has no shortcuts —no quick results. (See: Galatians 6:9 which tells us not to “become weary in doing good,” with the promise that “we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”)
• Discipline has no reserve —self-control must be re-instituted. (See 1 Thessalonians 5:8 which tell us to be “self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate.”)
• Discipline begins with the little things —like picking up your dirty socks (See: Song of Songs 2:15 which tells us that it’s the little things like “little foxes” that can spoil even huge vineyards when they aren’t taken care of.)
• Discipline tackles the difficult things —easy requires little effort (See: 2 Corinthians which tells us that we can delight in difficulties so that “Christ’s power may rest”on us for when we are weak He can show His strength through us.)
• Discipline starts with the mind—”I will.” (See: Philippians 4:13 which says that we “can do everything through Christ” who give us strength.)
• Discipline proceeds with the mandate—”I must.” (See 1 Corinthians 15:58, which says to “stand firm,” “always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord,” knowing that your “labor in the Lord is not in vain.” What greater work is there than to love as God commands?)
• Discipline never gets distracted—“This one thing I do.” (As it talks about in Philippians chapter 3.)
• Discipline never takes a vacation—it’s for life. (See: Ephesians 5:15, which tells us to be “wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.”) (Also see: 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 which tells us who are living out Biblical love that it “always protects… always hopes, always perseveres.”)
• Discipline is ever changing—growth requires new disciplines to meet life’s next and latest challenges.” (See: Ephesians 4:14-15, which tells us to “grow up into Him” who hold us together “as each part does its work.”)
May we “grow together” with Him, to have marriages where self-discipline is applied to the extent that the love of Christ is revealed and reflected so God can use us to draw others to Himself!
Steve and Cindy Wright