Archives For discipline

Dr. Doug Munton, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, IllinoisHaving practiced daily devotions for many years, I spend some time each day (mornings usually work best for me) reading my Bible and praying. I read a certain number of chapters of the Bible, underlining as I go. And I spend time praying by praising and thanking God, confessing sin, asking for my needs and praying for the needs of others.

I will tell you that sometimes I don’t feel much like doing that. But feelings are terribly fickle.

I rarely feel like exercising or eating healthy or all kinds of things that need to be done. I like the phrase “spiritual disciplines.” I am to discipline myself in my devotional life.

But I will also tell you that feelings often follow discipline. I am glad I exercise and eat right when I do. And I feel especially glad that I regularly spend time in God’s Word and in prayer.

The longer I’ve practiced daily devotionals the more I’ve recognized its value, including:

1. It reorders priorities.

It is easy for me to prioritize the wrong things. Getting my relationship with God at the top of my list helps the rest of my list fall into proper alignment. We need to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Spending time with the Lord in His Word and in prayer is a reminder of what matters most and helps all the rest of my life to realign.

2. It promotes truth.

God’s Word is true and it leads us in the way of truth. Listen to enough commercials and you can begin to think the truth is that the world is to revolve around what you want or think you need. The lies of the world are everywhere. We need the truth of what God says. Our time with God helps us to know and remember what is true and real and lasting.

3. It teaches lessons.

By reading the Bible for yourself you begin to take personal responsibility for your spiritual growth. By all means, learn in a Bible-believing church and get in a small group Bible study. But read for yourself. Time alone with God in prayer allows you to learn lessons of faith and thankfulness and dependence upon God.

4. It changes perspectives.

A devotional life helps you to begin to think like Jesus thinks and see life from God’s perspective. It encourages you to see the big picture of faith and to deal with adversity in a proper manner. It discourages self-centered living and promotes greater dependence on the Lord’s strength for life.

5. It deepens our relationship with God.

The more I read God’s Word given to me, the more I see the kind of relationship God wants me to have with Him. I see the beauty of His grace and the riches of the Christian life. The more I pray, the more I connect with the heart of God. We talk to those we love. God talks with us through His Word and the Holy Spirit. We talk with God through prayer.

I want to encourage you to begin or expand a devotional life. Spend some time reading God’s Word. If you haven’t yet read the entire New Testament, start there. Keep a pen and paper handy to underline or note things that especially stand out to you. And then spend some time in prayer. Praise and thank God. Confess sin. Pray for your needs and the needs of others. Consider keeping a prayer list of specific people you are praying for.

Spending time with God makes all the difference in the depth and joy of our spiritual lives.

Doug Munton, online at, is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in O’Fallon, Ill., and a former first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

This article appeared at

COMMENTARY | Heath Tibbetts

Looking down at the scale, I was shocked. I knew I wasn’t making healthy choices when it came to exercise or eating, but I never expected to see my 5’11’’ frame register at 50 pounds over my ideal weight!

Heath_Tibbetts_June3For years I had attempted short excursions into exercise or healthier eating, but never with any results or real dedication. And as I contemplated my situation, I realized for the first time that my weight problem wasn’t a physical issue…it was a spiritual one.

“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

My life habits weren’t glorifying God. Food was often a comfort for me when I was stressed or just wanted to forget everything around me. It became clear to me that if I was looking for comfort or peace, I needed to start going to God.

So I did.

I began allowing more opportunities for prayer and found God growing that time both in length and in depth. Scripture became my food in times of trouble, and I worked more diligently on applying the Bible and not just reading it. But I also realized I needed to be more physically active.

“For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way…” (1 Timothy 4:8).

Paul wasn’t telling young Timothy to pursue spiritual health and deny physical health. Bodily training is of “some value,” and our spiritual life should influence our physical life. I was determined to do exactly that, because I had known far too many
pastors with self-imposed health problems that were a result of unhealthy choices. I decided I wasn’t going to be one of those men. The choice had to be made now if I wanted to be physically able to serve God, my family, and my church.

So, I began to exercise regularly. It wasn’t intense, but it was something. Lunch choices became more than just “regular” or “super-sized.” Fried foods and soda didn’t go away for me, but the quantities did. When someone would ask about my weight loss, my common response was, “I stopped going back for thirds.”

Eventually I took up running, and 2011 was spent running several times a week, anywhere from three miles to a personal best of nine. Before every run and every workout I reminded myself of this: “Quitting is easier than completing.” I prayed before my workouts and my runs that God would give me the physical strength, as well as the mental strength, to become a more effective tool for his service. And sure enough, God answered my prayer.

It took a while, but by the end of 2011, I was down to my target weight. And other than some occasional fluctuations (hello, Christmas candy!) that’s right where I’m at today. A knee injury last year claimed my running career, so now I’m at the gym early in the mornings four times a week. And through all this, I’m stronger and healthier today than at any point in my life, including Basic Training!

Through this, I’ve learned some valuable lessons:

1. Stop making excuses about your eating. Claiming your Baptist heritage (potlucks, fried chicken, fried everything) just isn’t funny anymore.

2. Not feeling full is not the same as feeling hungry.

3. Be patient! Change takes time, especially when you’re changing your life and not just your body.

4. Set goals! My first run was sad. So I set a goal of one mile and worked up to it. Then three. Then five.

If you struggle with weight, stop thinking of it solely as a physical issue. Admit that it’s a spiritual issue. Repent of gluttony and idolatry of food. Pray for the resolve to complete instead of quit. And remember that God desires the glory even as you eat and drink.

Heath Tibbetts is pastor of First Baptist Church, Machesney Park.