Why Discipline has Become a Dirty Word
I was thinking about how for a long time, I was rarely reading the Bible. I had become disheartened. I had been reading a chapter of the Bible every day for 3 years prior to that, but I felt no closer to God. I was religiously ploughing through a quick chapter with the purpose of finishing a chapter, not relaxing in the word, not seeking to really understand and communicate with God regardless of the amount I read. I was always in a hurry, sleepy at the end of a day. Eventually, when I had completed my task of reading through the entire bible cover to cover (over the 3 years), I lost interest in the Bible and was rarely reading it.
But you might be different. You might be reading a few Bible verses every day. That is much more than most people and more than I was reading in the years following my “3yr cover to cover Bible reading” experience. However, most Christians are rather luke-warm by Biblical standards and we are called to be on fire for God.
As Christians, we are called to be ATHLETES, pressing onward towards the goal (Philippians 3:14). To continue with that metaphor of an athlete, we cannot look at the average, overweight person who is sitting on the couch watching TV with a packet of Tim Tams and say, “At least I go for a walk around the block each day, that’s more exercise than most people do”. An athlete needs more than a walk around the block to maintain his physical condition, he needs to discipline his body. He need to get up early and train, even when it is painful!
Why are athletes usually more self-controlled and disciplined at saying no to temptations? Why can they say no to that bowl of ice-cream or that first or second jam doughnut? It’s because they remember the pain of the early training session and they don’t want to undo the hard work. Daily they are reminded and forced to focus on their goals.
What will daily discipline and focus on God’s goals do to our worldly temptations? Our defenses will be strengthened against the sins that we always struggle with. Worldliness will become less appealing if we have daily disciplined ourselves and focused our minds on God through the reading of his word and through earnest prayer. When you are next faced with a temptation, what will you remember more: the quick sleepy prayer you prayed, or the time you spent on your knees, crying out to your creator, thanking him and praying for your unsaved friends?
When we are soaking up so much of the world every day through the media, TV, Film, internet, radio, advertising, smart phones and even through the everyday people we meet, worldliness is going to rub off on us.
If we lived in an Amish community in the country and had no outside influences, then we might be able to survive on a quick prayer and few bible verses per day, because we would have quiet hearts and be able to hear God’s gentle voice in our every activity as we walked with him. But we are being bombarded by worldliness everywhere, everyday, and so we need to turn up the volume on our good influences (Godly wisdom of the Bible and communion with God through prayer) so that they are not drowned out by the demanding, convincing desires and opinions of the world. We are called to a greater holiness. We are called to be set apart.
Consider the words made famous by DL Moody, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”
By nature, we tend to oppose discipline, but the Bible tells us that we need it. (Proverbs 13:24)
So I encourage you to reach deeper than you currently are. No good thing comes without sacrifice. The gift of eternal life comes with a sacrifice, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Godliness comes with a sacrifice too – the sacrifice of a disciplined life.
We are his disciples, called to be his disciplined ones. We are called to give up our lives. For most of us it won’t be a literal giving up of our life to the point of martyrdom, but it means a giving up of our worldly desires to serve him and to serve others through him. We have been called to take up our cross and follow him.
Sometimes it means giving up an extra hour or two of sleep in our comfy beds, or some of our TV time. For the first disciples it meant giving up their fishing careers. When those disciples were looking back on their lives, do you think that they gave up much compared to what they received? Compare the rewards of a life of fishing for fish versus a life fishing for men.
What will God do with our lives and what rewards will we uncover if we discipline ourselves to following him in a way that we never have before?
The joy of being inside God’s Will and the privilege of obediently doing the good works that He has prepared for us to to in advance will bring satisfaction and cause us to have a greater influence on the world around us. Some of these rewards we will see on this side of heaven and some may not be known until after we die.
Are you still an athlete who is training and competing? Or are you a retired athlete, sitting on the couch with a packet of biscuits?
There is a joy that comes from seeking God’s face. My desire is to walk closely with my Lord and for him to guide my every step. With God leading, there is nothing to fear. Nothing.