Spiritual Disciplines: Developing Habits That Define Your Life and Deepen Your Faith

By Danny Saavedra

Have you ever been on a diet? Have you ever tried multiple diets? For most of my life, my weight has fluctuated. I tried various different diets to get to the weight I wanted to be at. And while I did get some results from a few diets, they never lasted. In the end, I’d always end up gaining the weight back, and sometimes I’d end up weighing a little more than I did before I started. After the birth of my first child, I let myself go and gained around 50 pounds. I was depressed, unhealthy, and it was only getting worse. As my son’s first birthday was approaching, I thought about how I wanted to be around for many more birthdays. So, I decided to stop with the trendy diets and change my lifestyle.

I began working out five days a week and making intentional, incremental changes to the way I ate. The cool thing is it worked! I lost and kept the weight off. I dedicated myself to holistic health. I put in a lot of hard work, became more disciplined and intentional, and that led to greater health and happiness.

This shouldn't be a surprise, right? I think we can all agree that the best way to experience lasting, sustainable results for our overall wellbeing is through discipline and devotion to healthy living. And the same is true of our walk with the Lord! That’s why the apostle Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 4:7–8 (NASB), “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.”

So, how can we discipline ourselves for godliness? How do we grow to become healthier as believers and to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29)? By engaging in spiritual disciplines! You see, friends, spiritual disciplines are to your spiritual health and vitality—and to literally every other part of you—what exercise and diet are to your physical health.

The End to the Means, the Heart Behind the Habits

Before we even define what spiritual disciplines are, I want to make sure we all understand something clearly: The purpose of engaging in and putting spiritual disciplines into practice is NOT to become more like Jesus, to become holier, or even to become healthier. Those are all results, outcomes, and byproducts of spiritual disciplines. But the purpose for them, the reason we devote ourselves to these practices and develop these habits is much greater—it’s Jesus Himself!

The great end to the means is knowing Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior more and more each day and enjoying Him. It’s finding ourselves drawn deeper into the One who is supremely valuable and worthy of our affection and devotion, the One in whom we find our identity, belonging, and purpose, the One who fills and satisfies our souls, and the One who makes our joy complete. The true purpose, final joy, and end goal of each discipline is so perfectly stated by the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:8 (NIV): “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

So, now that we understand that . . . what are spiritual disciplines?

Spiritual Disciplines Defined

Spiritual disciplines are practices that allow us to experience spiritual blessings and grow in godliness—in becoming like Jesus. Donald Whitney describes them as “practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Author David Mathis calls them habits of grace that we develop in order to experience a deeper measure of God’s grace and the spiritual blessings that come from our relationship with Jesus!

Ephesians 3:17–21 (NIV, emphasis added) says, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

I want you to see this . . . There’s no limit to the love of Christ that you can experience; there’s no limit to the grace, peace, wisdom, power, and spiritual blessings you can walk in and “grasp” and “know.” He can do immeasurably more than we can ever imagine. The ones who put a cap on how much of those blessings can be experienced is us! As it pertains to experiencing the abundant life that Jesus came to give us, all that He created us to be, and how we can walk in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23), we get out of it what we put into it!

Getting out of It What You Put into It

Now, I want you to think about this for a second: We work out our physical body, we take supplements, and eat right in order to grow our muscles and get in great shape, right? But the truth is our work isn’t the whole story. I lift weights and drink a protein shake and sleep the proper eight hours I need and then the systems in my body take over. They’re responsible for the growing, the burning, and the recharging of my body. Yes, I get out of it what I put into it, but I don’t actually do the deep work that produces the outward results. I do a little work and my body does the rest.

That’s exactly how it works with spiritual disciplines. We put in a little dedication and work. Let’s say we spend a mere hour of time in the Word and journal five times per week. The Holy Spirit then takes that little we put in and produces more than we ever could imagine. We do something as simple as replace 30 minutes of scrolling through social media with 30 minutes of meditation on Scripture or 20 minutes of Netflix in order to take a prayer walk with the Lord, and by the power of the Spirit at work within us, we begin to see real change in the way we feel and view the world. That’s because after we put in a little dedication and discipline to knowing Jesus, to having intimacy with Him, to growing in relationship with Him, He does immeasurably more in us than we could ever imagine, and that internal work produces amazing outward results. That’s why Paul finished Philippians 2:12–13 (NKJV, emphasis added) by saying, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

The List

The following is a list of spiritual disciplines. Keep in mind, this isn’t the end-all, be-all list. There are some lists out there that include more and some include less. I believe this is a good list that balances personal and interpersonal disciplines.

Personal Spiritual Disciplines:

  • Scripture (reading, studying, meditating, memorizing)
  • Prayer (alone and with others)
  • Worship
  • Fasting
  • Journaling
  • Silence and Solitude

Interpersonal Spiritual Disciplines:

  • Fellowship
  • Service
  • Stewardship
  • Evangelism
  • Confession
  • Submission

For the purpose of this series, we’re going to focus on the personal disciplines. We’ll do a series of articles on the interpersonal disciplines at a later date.

Below, you can find every article that has been written in this series. We pray they are a blessing to you and truly help you get to know Jesus better and grow in your relationship with Him.

Check out other articles from this series . . .

Read the Bible   Study the Bible   Meditate on the Bible   

Memorize the Bible   Reading Plan on Prayer

About the Author

Danny Saavedra

Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.