Discipline tends to be a word that evokes negative images in a person’s mind. However, without discipline we would not have the vast array of technological advancements nor the exciting sports records we know today. “Discipline without direction is drudgery” (Donald Whitney; Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life; p 15). The apostle Paul wrote, “… discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Whitney explains the purpose of spiritual disciplines, “The Spiritual Disciplines are those personal and corporate disciplines that promote spiritual growth” and “The Spiritual Disciplines are the God-given means we are to use in the Spirit-filled pursuit of Godliness” (p 17).
J.D. Greear wrote, “Disciplining ourselves to practice certain behaviors helps us develop a love for them” (Gospel; p 195). Greear describes the spiritual disciplines in this manner, “The whole purpose of the disciplines, in fact, is to give you opportunity to think about, and meditate on, and move within the gospel. Spiritual disciplines are like wires that connect us to the power of the gospel. They have no power in themselves, but they connect us to the place from which the power flows. They are gateways to the gospel, but not the gospel itself” (p 196).
Over the past couple of years I have been trying to more intentionally incorporate the spiritual discipline of journaling into my life. I must admit that this is one discipline I have never been consistent with over the years. Bottom line honesty, it takes too much extra time. However, God convicted me from Psalm 27:8 that I was not hearing His voice and enjoying His will as He desired me to and that I needed to start journaling. Psalm 27:8 declares, “When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.’”
Whitney writes that “journaling blends biblical doctrine and daily living” (p 205). I highly recommend that you get a copy of Whitney’s book on the spiritual disciplines and pour through it more than just once. I want to share from my personal experience over the last couple of years how God has used journaling to mature me in my Christian faith.
- I remember the truth or lesson that God teaches me from the Bible. Journaling forces me to write out my thoughts; thus, I am more likely to remember what it was God taught me. Have you had this thought, “I wish I would have written it down so I could remember what it was.” Or have you ever told someone this, “If I don’t write it down I won’t remember it.” If these statements are true about our daily tasks and calendar, then how much more significant do they become when they pertain to our spiritual maturity.
- I am able to clarify my thoughts and feelings in light of the Bible rather than processing my emotions and feelings only internally. Seeing something in print has a way of causing us to really consider what we are seeing or reading. Have you ever thought to yourself about something you said, “That sounded a lot better in my mind than it did when I said it.” When I begin to flesh it out on paper and come to concrete terms of what I am thinking then I am more apt to work through my thoughts and get them in line with the Scriptures. I have a lot of loose thoughts, but only the ones that I capture make a lasting difference.
- I am able to look back over a period of time and hear the voice of God and trace the hand of God as He leads me. For most of my Christian life I would say I have spent my time chasing after the will of God. I would say, “I just want God’s will to be done.” However, over the last couple of years my journaling experience has made me more sensitive to the voice of God in my life and I feel like I have been able to know God’s will in my life more clearly. Rather than running after the will of God and trying to find what He was doing, I have enjoyed seasons of seeing God’s will unfold. I knew what He was wanting to do, and as He brought it about on His time I was better positioned in my relationship with Him to enjoy enjoy it. Solomon wrote, “The end is better than the beginning; Patience in spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit” (Ecclesiastes 7:8). The journey matters; otherwise, the end does not. God has taught me to enjoy the process of spiritual growth because at the beginning, middle and end He is always the prize!
- Coupled with Scripture reading and Scripture meditation, journaling has helped tune my ability to hear the voice of the Lord in my life. While God does not speak in a loud, audible voice; He does speak in a clear and compelling voice from the Bible. I have found that just reading the Bible alone is not enough for me to clearly hear from God. I need more than anything to hear from God. Meditating on the Scriptures that I am reading and journaling what I am learning has sharpened me in this area of my relationship with the Lord.