It’s been a month since you read the last issue of Beacon Lights, an issue devoted to spiritual discipline. Now might be a good time to check in with how you are doing in the disciplines. Maybe you are thinking, “Come on, do I really need to do that already? It’s only been a month.” Consider the story of the conversion of Augustine, a church father who lived in the fourth and fifth centuries. Understanding the life that he lived in response to his conversion should impress upon us the fact that the time to lead a life of godly discipline is right now.
Augustine of Hippo was a restless youth. Despite his godly mother Monica’s instruction, he did not lead a spiritually disciplined life. Far from it in fact. For most of his days as a student, he would in his words, “walk the streets of Babylon, and wallow in the mire thereof.” He was enthralled with the pleasures and philosophies of the world. He knew that the life he was leading was wrong, for he later confessed that his heart was restless until it rested in God.
Augustine spoke of the moment he was converted to a truly godly life. He was sitting alone and heard a child singing the words, “Pick it up, read it; pick it up, read it.” Upon hearing these words, he read the first passage he encountered after opening a bible. The passage was Romans 13: 13–14: “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” Augustine’s response to reading these words was one of faith. “I wanted to read no further, nor did I need to. For instantly, as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away.” Years of searching for the truth among the ungodly philosophies of the world were disposed of in an instant.
Maybe you are thinking that living a godly life as a converted Christian and living a disciplined life are two different things, as if discipline is some sort of higher spirituality attained by only the most holy Christians. Not so. Augustine recognized at the moment of his conversion that a godly life is a disciplined life. The scripture passage God used in his conversion spoke specifically to this—a godly life is not only a putting off of worldly lusts, but also a putting on of Christ. A godly life must exhibit discipline in prayer and scripture reading and the rest of the disciplines. God uses the disciplines to mold and shape his children so that they make a small beginning in a life of holiness and devotion to him. Augustine recognized this and understood that he could not wait another day to change his priorities in life. He spent the rest of his life in devotion to God.
If you read last month’s issue on spiritual discipline, your thoughts may have gone in one of two directions. You may have thought, “I practice all of these disciplines and it can be said of my life as a whole that it is perfectly disciplined.” Since that cannot possibly be the response of any one of us, let’s move on to a more realistic one. “I see the old man in me and realize that my life is not as disciplined as it should be.”
Along the lines of this second, more honest and realistic thought about your life of discipline, you might see some roadblocks to beginning a disciplined life right now. Maybe as you read each article, you became excited. Maybe you were encouraged to begin working towards practicing a few of these disciplines better—or maybe for the first time—in your life. Maybe it’s been a month since you read those articles and you still haven’t begun. Maybe you feel guilty because you know you should have started the day you read the articles on discipline. These are all admissions that you know you have failed. This knowledge of your failings has turned your lack of discipline from a sin of omission into a sin of commission. The lack of discipline in your life may have before been something that you didn’t realize until someone told you or you read something (last month) that pricked your heart. But now that lack of discipline is something that is firmly planted in the front of your mind. You can’t not see it. So now your lack of response to this lack of discipline is a sin that you willfully commit.
There is no magic pill that you can take to fix this lack of discipline and it won’t be any easier if you wait until tomorrow to begin. So, what should you do about it? You need to make every part of your life the subject of prayer and it needs to start immediately. You need to stop reading this article right now, get on your knees, and pray. “Father, forgive my lack of discipline. Work in me a heart that desires to have the work of salvation you have given me at the forefront of every aspect of my life, so that the life I live is one that lives out of this salvation to the glory of your name. And that I live not for my own desires, but that I live a selfless life devoted to you.” By submitting all aspects of your life to God in prayer, he uses those prayers better to show you where you are lacking in discipline and clarify how you must change your way of living.
Maybe as you read each article last month, you felt indifferent. Maybe your response was: “I know I must live a life of spiritual discipline, but I’m still young yet. I’m still growing up. I am not spiritually mature yet. Spiritual discipline will have to wait until tomorrow, or next year, or three years from now.” As mentioned above, discipline will not get any easier tomorrow. The excuses for waiting for another time to begin are exactly what the devil wants. He wants you to buy into the idea that it is better to wait until tomorrow because that gives him another day to make easy work of you, his prey while you ignore a life that would strengthen you to fight against him.
Maybe you are in a rut of despair when it comes to spiritual discipline. You are daily thinking about discipline, fighting against selfishness with that desire for holy living, but you feel like you are constantly taking two steps forward, only to fall back three steps. You know that there is no neutral in the Christian walk. It is either positive or negative. If you are not living a life of devotion to God and growing in discipline, you are backsliding.
Fear not, Christian!
The fact that you are fighting to live a disciplined life is proof that you are indeed making a beginning in this direction. You know your own weakness, so you don’t trust your strength, ability, or will power to accomplish anything in this. You trust in Christ. So, in the end, the only “magic pill” there is is Jesus Christ, the Great Physician. But it’s not a pill you can buy and take as instructed. It’s Christ’s work of salvation that is already working in your heart, causing you to trust in him for all things, including a life of spiritual discipline. As Augustine read and responded in faith, so must we: “put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh.”
Originally published February 2020, Vol 79 No 2
 Saint Augustine, The City of God (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013), viii.
 Ibid., ix.