Many would agree the topic of discipline is never hugely popular in any area of discussion. However, the loathing of discipline often reaches an entirely new level when it comes to spiritual matters. I believe we often react this way because of our tendency to quickly marry spiritual discipline and legalism. And while there’s no question destructive results do occur when spiritual discipline is motivated by legalism, we should be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Why? Because many times we use the excuse of legalism to avoid the practice of any discipline at all, when in reality we’re just too lazy. Instead, we ignore the opportunity for growth that such discipline creates, because to quote Thomas Edison, “opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
However, we must remember the exercise of spiritual disciplines is never to earn greater favor with God. Children of God already receive such favor and grace from God’s unmerited love in Christ. But, what the practice of discipline does provide is a method to respond to the calling on our lives to walk in His ways and pursue a life worthy of our calling. Therefore, spiritual disciplines alone should never be the goal, but instead should assist us in striving towards the goal of Christlikeness and glorifying God. In fact, the more disciplined we become, the greater our awareness should be of our own sinfulness, thus magnifying our great need for Christ.