Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. -1 Timothy 4:7
If anything other than godliness is your purpose for spiritual disciplines, you will lose momentum. Spiritual disciplines are not to earn God’s love, increase his favor for you, or to help him by supplying something lacking in him. God doesn’t need you to spend time with him. If you don’t spend time with God, he’s not the one missing out – you are.
Spiritual disciplines are not meant to make you more liked by Jesus but to make you more like Jesus.
As any person, I have seasons of great success regarding disciplines and seasons of great frustration. I have gone through periods when all I wanted to do was read my Bible and periods when it was all I could do to make myself read my Bible.
As of late, I have experienced steady success in daily spiritual disciplines. I think it has to do with a few reasons:
- My PURPOSE is for my increase in godliness.
- My MOTIVATION is for my benefit (truth – I need to spend time with God) rather than my guilt (false – God needs to spend time with me).
- My PROCESS has a strategy and no longer sporadic.
- My SYSTEM has built-in accountability.
Figure out what keeps you on track. If it is an accountability partner, to-do list, reminders, etc, whatever works for you, use it. For me, I use the Todoist app everyday to guide my activity and guard my time. On it, I have a list of daily tasks that I must complete before I go to sleep. I also have certain tasks that recur weekly. Then I also have date specific tasks.
Every morning, the first thing on my list is to pray Eph. 5:16 over my day. After that, I have 3 daily spiritual disciplines that are on that list that keep me from being able to close out the day until I have done them. Usually, I will get these done first, but if I don’t complete them for some reason in the morning, I will ensure that I get it done either while I am waiting for something, during lunch, or before I go to bed.
Below are the 3 daily disciplines and how I do them currently. These aren’t perfect, but they are a great daily ritual for me where I connect with the Lord.
All of us have heard that we need to have quiet time, but few of us have had someone train us in what that looks like.
A plan is better than no plan.
So, if you don’t have a plan, here’s mine that you can copy, edit, or improve.
Pray. Read. Memorize.
I pray through one psalm everyday. All Scripture is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16). The Bible is God’s Word spoken to us. The psalms are God’s Word intended for us to speak back to him. We know not how we ought to speak to God, and the psalms train us how.
As we read the psalms, they give us insight concerning thoughts and direction to pray for ourselves, others, and through world events.
There are 150 psalms in the Book of Psalms. If you pray one a day, you can go through the entire book in 5 months. Take the calendar day of the month, and pray that psalm or an increment of 30.
Two options how to do it:
- Choose 1 of 5 psalms. Take a brief overview of the 5 psalms for the day and choose which one you want to pray through (Sept. 5 – read Psalm 5; 35; 65; 95; 125).
- Walk straight through psalms. Start on a certain day and move through the entire book. In the first month, you go through 30, the next month 31-60, and so on. I go this route because it doesn’t take as much time to try to choose through 5 and it also makes sure that I pray through the entire range of emotions and issues present in the book rather than just always going back to my favorites.
You read through it and pray through it. It is incredible as you watch God shape your prayers. The Spirit pinpoints areas to pray as the Word directs you how to pray. It isn’t stale or stagnant but fresh every morning. I highly recommend it!
Bible intake is essential to Christian discipleship (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Josh. 1:8; Rom. 15:4; Heb. 4:12). If you don’t have a plan, you will find your Bible reading sporadic. Don’t read the Bible like a yearbook (looking in the back for pages that apply to you) or a fortune cookie (hoping that the random passage will be God’s answer for you today). The Bible has a beginning, middle, and end. Each book has a logical train of thought. God designed it that way.
Learn to read the Bible the way that God set the table rather than treating it like a buffet-line.
I recommend reading through the entire Bible but don’t attempt it until you have successfully read through a few books of the Bible. Take a gospel and read it all the way through. Read through Acts. Study through an epistle. Work your way up to a reading plan that goes through the entirety of the Bible.
Here are a few of my favorite Bible reading plans:
Chronological. Read the Bible in the order that the events happened.
Ninety-Day Challenge. Read the Bible all the way through in only 90 days. It’s a challenge well worth taking.
Prof. Horner’s Reading System. A unique and challenging system where you read 10 chapters a day.
M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan. The classic M’Cheyne plan–read the Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms or Gospels every day.
Book Order. Read from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 in the order in which the books of the Bible are arranged.
Whatever plan you select, don’t quit if you miss a day. Pick back up! If you weren’t in the Word yesterday, don’t let that cause you to neglect it today. As you read, ask these questions:
- What does this say about God?
- What does this say about us?
- What should we do about it?
Scripture memory is the discipline that has changed me more than any other. The process of hiding God’s Word in my heart to sin less is foundational to spiritual development (Ps. 119:11). Once I got sick and tired of not knowing the Word as I ought to, I finally decided to memorize Scripture seriously.
To memorize Scripture consistently, you need two things:
- Starter List – what verses are you going to memorize first?
- Review Process – how will you continually review those verses you have memorized?
So, where do you begin with your list? Here is advice I regularly give:
- Establish Fighter Verses – Acknowledge the weak areas in your life right now. Establish how the Devil is attacking you (1 Pet. 5:8) and then get the right portion of the sword in your hand to fight him (Eph. 6:17). If you are struggling with your mouth, find some key verses on speech. Struggling with pride? Keep falling into the sin of lust? Is money becoming your god? This site has a great search feature to find popular Bible verses in certain categories.
- Strengthen Abstract Verses – You know phrases like “trust in the Lord with all your heart,” “Jesus wept,” and “God causes all things to work together for good.” What you need to do is get the rest of the verse together and memorize the address (In the verses listed, it is Prov. 3:5; John 11:35; Rom. 8:28).
- Include Pivotal Verses – There are certain pivotal verses that you and I just need to know. We need to be prepared to share verses on the gospel, Jesus, and key doctrines. Make sure that you are well-rounded. I have a goal that someone could ask me about any major area of faith and I should be able to provide a verse on the spot committed to memory.
I recently just reached a Scripture memory goal I have been working towards for a long time. The only way I could get there is I had a good method of reviewing the verses. I used to use a notecard system that I loved, but I now use an app called Scripture Typer that I love. It helps remind me periodically about reviewing the verses I have already mastered.
3 Things Every Day
Those are the three things I attempt to do every morning: pray a psalm, read a chapter, and memorize verses. All three of these are rooted in God’s Word because I want to hear from God.
I have my to-do list expecting me to check it off every day of my life and that process works for me.
This plan won’t work for you in the same way it works for me, but maybe it will spark another plan as you go forward.
To grow more in Christ you must know more of Christ.
Get in the Word. I pray this helps you in your journey!
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.