Wise farmers live by the advice “Thank God for the harvest, but keep raking.” While some people see self-discipline as an unpleasant burden, it’s more like a rake—a useful tool for clearing away habits that can limit intimacy with God. Only He can bring a harvest of blessing in your life. But if you work the soil, the garden will grow more easily. Don’t worry. Tending your soul can be joyful, and deeply rewarding.
Proverbs 25:16-28; Nehemiah 2:11-18
The book of Proverbs is full of helpful reminders to keep us living in a healthy way—spiritually, socially, and physically. It can hurt to realize you’ve made some mistakes, but be encouraged. That’s the first step to a joyful recovery.
Overall, are you walking well in life? How about down in the details?
- The Bible talks about honey as a delicacy. But Proverbs 25:16 advises caution when indulging in it: “Eat only what you need, so that you do not have it in excess and vomit it.” That’s true not just for food but for many things that, in moderation, could be positive. Is there anything you’re taking to a dangerous extreme? Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance—and for strength if you’re hoping to change. Addictions or bad habits can be tenacious, but they’re no match for the power of God within you (Eph. 3:20). Let Him strengthen you (Phil. 4:13), showing the way toward help if necessary.
- The passage from Proverbs identifies numerous unwanted actions, such as gossiping. List three and explain them in your own words. For instance, what might “sing songs to a troubled heart” mean here (Prov. 25:20)? Why is it “like vinegar on soda”? For each, describe a better way of being.
- Proverbs 25:28 speaks of the need for self-control. Discipline doesn’t have to be a scary word. God intended it as part of your character in Christ and a path to blessing. What role could discipline play in avoiding the behaviors you listed earlier?
- City walls in ancient times protected inhabitants from attack and theft. Why, then, is someone who lacks discipline “like a city that is broken into and without walls” (Prov. 25:28)? What could that person lose?
CONTINUING YOUR STUDY
Long after Solomon wrote his proverbs, the Israelites slid into decay. Eventually, Jerusalem was destroyed and the people were taken captive.
- Nehemiah’s story can be read as an encouragement to keep your life well tended as you walk with Jesus. Considering Proverbs 25:28 compares a person’s life to a walled city, what would you see if you “walked around” yours to inspect and repair it the way Nehemiah did in Jerusalem (Neh. 2:13-14)? Are there broken places where you might be losing finances, friends, or other blessings because of actions like those in Proverbs 25?
- Nehemiah wanted to rebuild so the Jews would “no longer be a disgrace” (Neh. 2:17). What does this tell you about the connection between discipline, self-respect, and the respect of others?
- Trusting in God’s faithfulness, Nehemiah and his friends agreed to begin “the good work” (Neh. 2:18). Strong’s Concordance indicates good here means “pleasant.” How does that affect your feelings toward self-discipline?
What are some ways that you might “rake” carefully as you go about each day?
- Self-discipline helps keep unwanted behaviors from destroying what God is doing in your life. Embrace it and you’ll discover how pleasant the work can be.
Consider how this study applies to your life.
It’s important to realize that while self-discipline is positive, it’s not all you need to walk well in life. In fact, if you try to rely on willpower alone, you’ll soon become frustrated in your attempts to “conquer sin” or “be a better person.” Jesus didn’t just save you for heaven; He also made a wonderful, godly life here on earth possible for you. That’s something you could never achieve without Him. (See John 15:5.) Self-discipline doesn’t mean doing everything yourself. It means working with, not against, God.
- Christ’s indwelling Spirit empowers believers to walk in godliness and avoid the pitfalls mentioned in Proverbs 25. Read Galatians 2:20 and 2 Timothy 2:22. Then write a prayer asking God to help you connect—and live out—these two verses.
- As you grow in Christ, your life will increasingly display His fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). Consider how each of the first eight qualities relate to the ninth: self-control (or discipline). Do they build on each other in a circular way—for example, if you have more love, you can be more disciplined, and the more disciplined you are, the better you can love? Explain.
- Scripture provides a beautiful encouragement for removing what comes between you and Christ: “Catch the foxes … that are ruining the vineyards, while our vineyards are in blossom” (Song of Solomon 2:15). Let this be one more way of helping you understand the value, power, and promise of discipline.