“Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.”
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
Here are five practical steps for an on-path life:
- Clarify the path. (Read and study the word of God. Listen to and learn from wise teachers and mentors.)
- Get on the path. (Obey the word. Follow the directives of scripture.)
- Do the work the path requires. (Trust God and train yourself in godliness. Commit to the daily discipline of musar.)
- Say no to anything off-path. (Turn away from the things of the fallen world.)
- If you drift off-path, get back on-path asap. (Be coachable and accountable. Allow God’s standards, God’s Spirit, and God’s people to correct and redirect you.)
What is described here is the kind of self-discipline that is empowered by the Holy Spirit. It the “self-control” element of the fruit of the Spirit of Galatians 5. It is both the act and the process of training yourself to make the Spirit-driven choice and follow the right path. This is the heart of what it means to be discipline-driven.
The absence of self-discipline makes you vulnerable. Proverbs 25:28 says it: “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” When we lack self-discipline, we fail to make the right choices at life’s decision points, we drift off-path, and we are “broken into” by the enemy and the impulses of our sin nature.
Proverbs 16.32 communicates a similar message: “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” (Proverbs 16.32)
Scripture explicitly instructs us to train ourselves to take disciplined action in response to the word of God and the promptings of the Spirit. This “training” is the process of musar, the process of discipleship and spiritual growth that is a recurring theme in Proverbs.
“Keep hold of instruction (musar); do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.” (Proverbs 4.13)
“Take my instruction (musar) instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.” (Proverbs 8.10-11)
“Listen to advice and accept instruction (musar), that you may gain wisdom in the future.” (Proverbs 18.20)
Through proper training—the daily discipline of musar—we form proper habits; we can intentionally choose those habits that are necessary for the formation of Christian character. Skill—and spiritual momentum—are built through a steady obedience.
As a reminder, the Hebrew word for instruction is musar, and it means learning and building skill through training. Musar means learning to be discipline-driven. It is the process of getting wiser and more skillful every day by learning to consistently apply God’s principles to your life. It is the process by which wisdom is acquired. The opposite is to be default-driven, which is the absence of discipline.
The disciplined process of instruction and training must be fully embraced in order to stay on-path. In order to be wise and live skillfully, you must learn and be trained (musar).
We are called to respond to God in faith and do the work required for spiritual growth and skill-building. This is the very meaning and purpose of musar. In response to God’s grace in our life, we must walk in the Spirit, exercise self-discipline, and learn wisdom. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” (Titus 2:11-12)
Many times in this devotional I have reminded all of us that the mature Christian life is not given; it is learned. It is developed through discipline. We are not supernaturally infused with spiritual maturity when we are saved. Rather, spiritual growth and maturity is a discipline-driven process that requires our full effort. At the same time, the process is energized and empowered by the Spirit of God. Like any process, it takes time.
“Train yourself in godliness.” (1 Timothy 4.7)
Trust God and do the work.