When you hear the word “discipline,” what immediate thoughts and feelings pop up? Maybe it’s guilt—because you don’t view yourself as a self-disciplined person, but you’d like to be. Maybe it’s fear—because you’re imagining the kind of discipline you get when you make a mistake and face consequences. Or maybe it’s dread—because you want to be self-disciplined but know that it will require hard work. Or maybe you just wonder—why is self-discipline important?
The value of self-discipline.
Is there a new habit you want to form, or a new skill you want to master? Then you need self-discipline. And are there bad habits in your life that you hope to overcome? Then self-discipline is essential.
Self-discipline is important because it’s how we take steps toward becoming the person we hope to be.
Strong habits formed over time produce positive results. They often lead to spiritual growth, physical health, and relational wellness. They’re also the product of self-discipline. So, how do we develop self-discipline? First, let’s ask God for help.
We need more than inner strength.
Here’s the thing: Most of us want the product of discipline without the pain of discipline. But we can’t have the rewards without the process.
In other words, we want to be physically healthy and lose weight, but we don’t want to give up junk food. We want to form a strong habit of prayer but don’t want to look away from our phones. So we want to build self-discipline while avoiding a restrictive lifestyle.
We all want to experience good things as soon as possible. But self-discipline requires patience. Fortunately, God can help us find the power to change, so we can become self-disciplined.
Discipline comes from God and brings glory to Him. In fact, these two verses remind us that discipline and self-control aren’t something we self-manufacture, but something we can rely on the Spirit to provide:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. … Galatians 5:22-23 NLT
The Greek word for self-control in Galatians 5:23 is egkrateia, which means “temperance: the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites.” With God’s help, we can master our minds and choose what we want most over what we want in the moment. And that’s discipline.
Pastor Craig Groeschel says it like this, “The decisions you make today tell the stories you tell tomorrow.”
So, discipline is a decision—a decision to invite the Holy Spirit to change our desires and to decide to do what’s best over what’s easiest.
Self-discipline isn’t easy—but it’s worth it
And there’s no sugarcoating it—discipline isn’t always easy. But it’s always worth it. It’s not some elusive ideal that’s exclusive to an elite group of Jesus followers. Discipline is available to all of us, and it’s like a muscle. It gets easier the more you work at it. At first, it may feel overwhelming. But don’t give up. Because we know that discipline, though painful, is purposeful.
In fact, just look at what Scripture says about why discipline is important and what kind of results it can produce:
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11 NIV
Self-discipline produces a harvest—and you don’t yield crops without consistency over time. So, you can develop discipline. It starts by deciding to invite God in. And then it continues by taking steps to fill your mind, your heart, and your calendar with the things that matter most—not just the things that matter in the moment.
As you grow in self-discipline, you’ll discover a greater connection to God and healthier self-esteem. You’ll break bad habits and create some good habits too. You’ll also grow in self-confidence. And if you’re still a little overwhelmed? That’s okay. Ask God for help filling you with more of His power, love, and self-discipline.