The end goal of the Christian life is to become the man that God wants us to be. We do this by allowing his vision, mission, purposes, and goals to shape our lives. One way we can lead ourselves to this is through discipline. A discipline, or in our case “spiritual discipline,” is a training activity that helps to shape and mold character over an extended period of time that accelerates and focuses the process.
Spiritual discipline is the “strict training” that Paul was talking about “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.” 1 Corinthians 9:25
THE FIVE DISCIPLINES
ONE | Prayer
“Beginning Awkward Conversations With An Unseen God”
Prayer is a fundamental discipline, and as men need to learn to build prayer routines into the daily patterns of their lives. Prayer is merely talking with God. For newer Christians, talking to an unseen God is unusual. And it’s unusual because when we are having a conversation, there is usually someone physically standing in front of us that talks back.
Prayer does not exactly work like this. But the small hurdle of learning to talk with an unseen God is not the central issue we as men have with practicing the discipline of prayer. The primary problem is all the other pressing issues that keep us from praying and developing a pattern of prayer.
Daily we face demands that compete for our time. Because of this, as men, we often go days, weeks, and even months devoid of prayer, trusting only in human effort rather than also trusting in God through prayer. This can leave us feeling physically exhausted and spiritually depleted. Since so many other things compete with this priority, we need to be reminded of its priority and encourage ourselves to strive to make time.
One of the best methods for getting into regular prayer is the A.C.T.S. Method. This acronym stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. This method is easy to learn and easy to use.
TWO | Scripture
“Discover the Greatest Book Ever Written, Printed, and Sold”
People want the truth, and I believe they’re on a search for it. As Christians, we believe truth originates from God alone. God’s Word is the revelation of the truth, and Jesus is the physical representation of truth. But we cannot know the truth if we don’t know how to spend time in the Word and with Jesus. And small doses of it, spoon-fed in short readings one time a week on a Sunday morning is not enough.
As men we must be challenged to read the Bible, but we must also be taught how to read it, study it, memorize it, and pray it. We must learn how to read and study the Bible; it’s the greatest gift we will ever receive and it’s the primary way we hear from God. The following are a few pointers on how to get started.
First, just start reading. I would recommend starting in the New Testament with the Gospel of Matthew with a Bible App for your phone. Make sure and choose an easy-to-read version like the New Living Translation (NLT) a few minutes each day. One of the great apps over the last few years that I have pointed men to is the Daily Audio Bible or the YouVersion Bible.
Second, read a trusted devotional. Short and easy-to-read devotionals teach us how to dig meaning from the Bible. I would use a devotional that includes Bible verses and then expands on these verses. When it comes from a trusted person or trusted source, it helps you to learn how to draw practical application from your Bible reading. It’s like having a personal coach as you focus on a few verses from the scripture. I recommend the Quest Study Bible.
Third, establish regular patterns. This step is not so much about quantity or quality—it’s about developing a routine. Setting small daily goals and repeating them is essential. Even 5 to 10 minutes per day for a month will result in positive habits and will become rewarding over time. Then increase the repetitions and the length of time as needed.
Fourth, go to the next level by learning how to study the Bible. This is a little more involved and requires more effort, but it’s the greatest gift you could ever give yourself or another man. I would use the Inductive Bible Study Method. This method teaches how to observe, interpret, and apply God’s Word correctly. Every man should learn how to discover the truths in God’s Word for themselves.
THREE | Brotherhood
“The Brotherhood We Need We Avoid”
Men need relationships with other men. Most men not only fail to develop meaningful relationships with other men, but they also lack adding in the spiritual component that must undergird it. Men prefer to go life alone for several reasons—time is valuable, relationships take work, chemistry is challenging, and autonomy is easier.
Probably the biggest reason I believe men don’t establish spiritual connections with other men is that they have never experienced one before. Having never had one, they don’t know how to do it, and because of this, they have never experienced the benefit. All this leads us to defaulting to superficial male relationships that focus on trivial matters. We press the easy button.
Men who participate in one on one relationships or small groups mature faster than those who do not. This environment is a place where the previous three disciplines can be sharpened and experienced. As men need to be involved in a Christian community, and not just the occasional weekend gathering. Smaller gatherings regularly are where men can discover some things about themselves and others.
Spiritual growth doesn’t happen in isolation; it occurs in a community, and men need other men. When men link arms, great things happen. Take, for example, Jesus and his men. What Jesus did changed the world, but without other men, the world would have never heard the good news Jesus proclaimed.
FOUR | Accountability
“Christian Men Have The Wrong Idea About Accountability”
Accountability is perhaps the leading indicator of spiritual success in a man’s life. Brothers in accountable relationships make a great man of God. Jonathan made David better. Barnabas made Paul better. Paul made Timothy better. Jesus made the Twelve better. And it wasn’t just happenstance and acquaintance; it was intentional brotherhood with accountability.
Spiritual accountability is perhaps one of the most misunderstood practices. I believe this is because when men hear the word “accountability” in a religious context, they immediately assume a negative connotation. Men mostly hear about a need for accountability when issues of sin arise.
Therefore accountability means that we need help because we can’t overcome our financial problems, sexual addictions, or marital conflicts. This understanding is unfortunate because it has given accountability a bad name. If we brand accountability this way, it makes a man look weak, and as men we don’t want to feel and look this way—unless they are in desperate need of help and don’t care. Here are a few things we need to understand about accountability.
First, it needs to be proactive and positive, not exclusively reactive and negative. Spiritual accountability should be focused on the things I should start doing and continue doing. While occasionally, we all need a little accountability around some areas of sin that I need to stop doing, failure to fill the void activities we’ve stopped with activities we need to start fails to initiate positive momentum. We need some accountability around actions that will have a proactive and positive impact on our spiritual life. For example, men need accountability in praying with our wife, regularly giving, reading Scripture, forgiving self, and casting our anxiety and worry on God.
Second, we need to invite self-imposed accountability. Too often we think someone else needs to hold us accountable, and I think this idea, while well-meaning, fails to work successfully. However, when a man invites self-imposed accountability based on declared goals, there is a much higher return and long-term benefit. Accountability of any kind that is self-imposed produces more significant results—this is especially true in this case.
Third, accountability needs to be spiritually-focused. We need men not only to hold us accountable but to help us dig for the spiritual aspects. Accountability to seeing change in our behavior is essential but add in the spiritual purpose and potential spiritual outcomes of it, and then we focus on doing the right behaviors for the right reasons. We have to remember we are becoming the men God wants us to be, and we are doing it for his glory, not our own. Therefore, when it comes to accountability, here is what we are looking for positive willing spiritual accountability.
FIVE | Personal Ministry
“Get Off the Bench and Into the Game.”
Christian men who are accelerating their spiritual growth are involved in personal ministry. Personal ministry includes things like leading a small group, mentoring other men, teaching a class, organizing a mission trip experience, serving on a board of a non-profit, or conducting a study in a workplace environment. When we as men do this, we are moving from being a disciple to discipling others. We are finding unique and personalized ways to use our gifts, passions, and talents for the blessing of God and to the benefit of others.
Some men need to be pushed to take this step. Too often men wait too long before taking this step. And I think men sometimes need a little push on this one since they prefer to disqualify themselves for lack of knowledge and because of personal sin. They need another man to say, “Get off the bench and into the game.”