God uses three ways to change us and conform us to the image of Christ: people, circumstances, and spiritual disciplines. Of all three, only one is under our control: spiritual disciplines.
First, God uses people to change us. Proverbs 27:17 says is well: ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.’ Our relationships with friends, family, spouse, coworkers, neighbors, pastors, teachers and all sorts of people all mixed together create ample opportunities for us to learn, be corrected, be rebuked, be changed, and become godly in the process, however we react to them.
Second, God also uses circumstances to change us: traffic, rain, brownout, natural catastrophes, a final exam on the day of the most awaited conference of the year, and a host of other events we have no control over. These things build character, teach us patience, confront us with our unreasonable outbursts, and help us realize our human limitations. Romans 8: 28 says it well: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Finally, God uses spiritual disciplines to change us. Of the three, this is the most unique because God handed this part over to us so we could do something about it. The other two happen outside us; this one happens inside. You can’t choose how people will speak about you, you can’t choose when natural calamities strike, but you can choose to discipline your life in godliness. 1 Timothy 4:7 admonishes us to train ourselves for the purpose of godliness.
Sometimes we think of spiritual maturity as something elusive and out of reach. Sometimes it sounds all too mystical. Granted, two-thirds of it are beyond us. But there’s a part of it that we can actually work on– the spiritual disciplines. Now let’s go do them.