How to Discipline Yourself (Part 1)—Exercising Our Will “Muscle”

woman lifting weight

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 our habits? 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 a person can learn to enjoy exercise which involves a lot of effort, could we not also learn how to enjoy other “difficult” activities? Couldn’t we learn the important disciplines of living a godly life—and enjoy them? Yes! I will discuss how in this series.

The first key in how to discipline yourself lies in understanding that you have a choice!

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.”1

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 people are strong-willed, others more compliant. Some are emotional yo-yos (like me 😊), others more even-keeled.

In addition to our makeup, there are other factors that affect our will-power. Past experiences, current circumstances, physiological condition, and our relationship with God and others all come into play. 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. We are not alone in learning how to discipline ourselves. Look at these verses…

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, emphasis added)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…. (Gal 5:22-23, emphasis added; see also 2 Pet 1:3-8)

We are in a battle and we need to be trained! We need to exercise those flabby will “muscles”.

To experience this victory in your everyday life you must bring all of yourself—including your will under God’s control, His management. In actuality, you and I are not to be self-controlled, but Spirit-controlled.

The original Greek word in the passages above carries the idea of proceeding out from within oneself, but not by oneself.2

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

My friends, as you allow God to manage your choices—and the rest of you—your godly nature will grow stronger; your will “muscle” will become less flabby.

I don’t understand how it all works, but God Himself (His grace) enables us to choose His way—the best way—for our sake and His! Through His enabling grace, we will be able to change those bad habits and make new God-honoring and beneficial ones. Even though our flesh is weak, Our Lord can make our spirit willing!

Helpful Resources
Submission: A Beautiful Word
Surrender Blog Series

1 C. Ryrie Basic Theology
2 Bible Hub
Photo by Limor Zellermayer on Unsplash

All Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible: New International Version®. NIV. ® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.