What will it take in the Christian’s life to overcome broken resolutions, failed commitments, bad behavior, and substance abuse?
To begin with there is no such thing as instant godliness. There are no “one minute a day” practices, no “thirty days to a new you”, and no “three easy steps” to a life of freedom. That is not the way that God has planned for our sanctification.
We are forgiven (justified) and given eternal life (redeemed) instantly by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. But changing our behavior (sanctification) takes time. Please understand, justification and sanctification are completely different.
We have spent a lifetime developing patterns of sinful attitudes, thinking, and behaviors. These habits will not be broken and replaced with good and godly behavior without firm commitment to exercising self-discipline.
The apostle Paul uses the image of an athlete in training to tell us that we must discipline ourselves to live godly – “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (I Timothy 4:7). Godliness is not automatic. Good behavior is not automatic either. We must work towards it with due diligence. Why is this so important? The next verse tells us that doing so “holds the promise for the present life and also for the one to come.” Self discipline has benefits in this life, and eternal rewards too.
Good character and behavior do not come all at once. There is no silver bullet, no panacea, and no magic pill; just old fashioned hard work and bringing yourself under control.
Discipline is not punishment – it is training. An athlete spends countless hours on the training field. He practices a strict training regime, diet, and sleep schedule, all in an effort to bring his body under subjection so that he might run the race well.
Just as physical exercise is good for the body, the apostle Paul tells us our mind, emotions, will and spiritual life needs vigorous exercise as well. Just as the Greek athlete would discipline himself with vigorous exercise in order to win the athletic games, we are exhorted to exercise in such as way as to excel in godliness.
If you want victory, begin practicing discipline over yourself. Make yourself obey.