Rocky and the Spiritual Disicplines

Have you ever watched Rocky? As a film lover, and average guy,  I have watched Rocky multiple times and find Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky to be one of the most layered heroic characters ever put on film. When people think of Rocky most simply remember him with his hands in the air yelling “Yo, Adrian! We did it!” What people forget is all the hurt, trials, and beatings Rocky had to go through to even get to that title fight. Rocky had to train harder than he had ever done before in order to go toe-to-toe with Apollo Creed. We too have to prepare and train for our fight just as Paul tells us.

I Corinthians 9:24-27, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

Paul is saying that in order to not disqualify himself from ministry by giving into sin, he has trained his spiritual body to be prepared for the fight against that sin. Just like Rocky preparing to take on Apollo Creed, Paul has prepared himself to take on sin. How did he do this? How can we train ourselves to be prepared to fight sin? Use Spiritual Disciplines.

 What are spiritual disciplines?

Donald Whitney writes, “The Spiritual Disciplines are those practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are the habits of devotion and experiential Christianity that have been practiced by the people of God since Biblical times.”

Spiritual disciplines are how we train ourselves to go toe-to-toe with our sin. They are habits and practices that we can implement into our lives so that when the moment of temptation comes we can knock out sin in one punch. They can even be pathways to avoid the temptation altogether. Spiritual disciplines are focusing on God through Scripture, prayer, and truth in order to fight sin and glorify God. They can come in many forms. 

You can memorize certain Scriptures about particular sins and when the moment comes when you are tempted, the Holy Spirit can use that training of memorization to recall that verse to help you in your fight. Praying at a certain time of day when you are weakest to a certain sinful habit can be another way to combat sin.  They can be statements of God-focused truth like creeds or confessions that you say to yourself in moments of weakness to help you get your mind off of temptations and focused back on God’s Character. 

What do spiritual disciplines look like?

To give you an example, for a long time I had been dealing with the sin of greed. Before going to bed I would ask myself, “If I had all the money in the world, what would I buy?” You might not think that’s a big deal, but for me this thought had become so routine that I thought this every night without even trying to do so. This routine thought was causing me to sin, nearly every night. So I began instilling a new habit, instead of thinking “What could I have?” I began to quote The Heidelberg Catechism question 28, “What does it benefit us to know that God has created all things and still upholds them by his providence?” And then I repeat to myself the first part of the answer, “We can be patient in adversity, thankful in prosperity.” This is now a spiritual habit that I am still training my mind to recall when I go to bed to fight this sin of greed. 

Spiritual disciplines are not just defensive either, but they can be proactive. We can use these spiritual habits of Scripture, prayer, and meditating on God’s truth to worship Him.

Whitney writes, “The more we focus on God, the more we understand and appreciate this, we can’t help but respond to Him.”

We may not have Apollo Creed to contend with but we do have sinful habits, pitfalls to avoid, and a Good God to worship.  Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to train us by using the spiritual disciplines to aid us in our fight against sin. As Paul said, “I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

Good Resources on spiritual disciplines:

Spiritual Disciplines For the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney

Habits of Grace by David Mathis

Sources: Whitney, Donald S. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2014. Print. p.4, p. 104.

- Dean

Dean Lentini