Three Keys to Effective Spiritual Disciplines


Will DunlapWill Dunlap joins the Cross Church School of Ministry from Jonesboro, Arkansas. He is participating in the Children’s Ministry track.

I love Little Debbie snack cakes. I prefer the cosmic brownies, but give me any Little Debbie cake and I’ll eat it. If it were socially acceptable, I would eat a few packages in one sitting. In order to not get sick off eating these God-given snacks, I have to discipline myself to only eat one or two of these instead of the whole package.

That’s how we define our Christian walk. Our Christian walk is made up of following the disciplines that Jesus followed so we can become more like Him. Dr. Donald S. Whitney says it like this, “spiritual disciplines as those practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

I want to give you three practical disciplines that have improved my walk with the Lord and I pray that will improve yours as well.

1. Bible intake – ask any Pastor or person in ministry and they would say this is the most important part of your Christian walk. I ask myself this question time after time, “why is it that we can read a passage of Scripture at home, and it may affect us very little, but then a Pastor can preach on that same passage and we are deeply stirred?” When reading your Bible at home, our eyes tend to pass over the words in a few seconds then we close the Bible and the words immediately disappear out of our minds. But when we sit under a pastor who focuses our attention on that same passage for several minutes, pointing out the details of that text, comparing it with other passages, etc., we begin to feel more deeply about what God says in that section of Scripture.

Reading Scripture for a few minutes, putting your bible down, and continuing on with your day is not enough to sustain the daily battles we all face.

2. Prayer – I want to break this point down into two parts, 1: Do and 2: Don’t. Jesus says it like this in Matthew:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.” Matthew 6:5

One thing I have learned in my prayer life, both public and private, is be who you are. Some people will pray in a way that is different than how they are. That gets you nowhere. Jesus loves you for who you are amidst your brokenness and hurt so be real with Him.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:9-13

This kind of “blueprint” prayer is God-centered and God-focused. It is about God and no one else. I am not saying you have to have all the right words and pray this exact prayer but what I am saying is that you will never pray well if you don’t believe you’re welcomed in the Father’s presence.

I have been in my current role as the associate children’s minister at Cross Church Springdale for just over a year. Kids hate to be told no in any situation¾especially when it comes to Little Debbie’s. God is going to say no to some of the things you ask for. Regardless of how disciplined you are, He will still say no. Do you know why? Because he knows you more than you and loves you too much to give you what you want.

3. Fasting – now, this is a struggle for me. When I fast, I sometimes feel like the actual Debbie herself is pulling at me, trying to get me to eat an Oatmeal Crème Pie. In Matthew 6, Jesus is teaching his disciples about fasting.

When you fast do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” Matthew 6:16

Jesus begins the instructions with ‘whenever you fast.’ Jesus is not talking about IF you fast but rather the day you fast, show humility. When we fast, we are saying “God, you are my sustainer and provider.” We must trust God daily to provide what he knows we need.

As a pastor, I share a lot of meals with volunteers and friends. Whenever I’m fasting, it’s so hard to not drool over the food others enjoy in front of me. It’s tough but Jesus calls us to something greater. He calls us to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness. Let me encourage you today to walk forward in these truths that Jesus gives us. Don’t walk alone towards spiritual maturity.




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