2018-03-14 - Discipline
Why do you suppose that discipline is often considered an unflattering characteristic, when it comes to matters of faith, and in most any other way it is thought of as strength? For example, athletes need discipline to build physical strength, as well as whatever dexterities are appropriate to whichever sport they favor. Writers also need discipline to master techniques that most apply to the manner which is best at expressing their story to a reader. No matter what we do in life, whether it be doing office work, cashiering, waiter or waitressing, firefighting or law enforcement, air traffic control work, material movers, mechanical work in various fields, healthcare work with or for patients, restaurateur work, food preparation, janitorial services and waste removal, there is a need for some type of discipline in all of them. When it comes to faith, however, discipline is considered phony or insincere, at the very least. Very often, the truth of each exercise - religiously motivated or otherwise - is determined by the test of time. If someone pretends to be disciplined as an athlete, and they did not prepare, the truth will come to light, when consistent lack of progress is the result. If a chef is not disciplined in the culinary specialty of whichever establishment they represent, then lack of satisfied customers and management will expose their lack of discipline. Depending on the field in which you train to work, the consequence of not being properly prepared will be exposed at some point, and it will affect you and others. Why is spiritual discipline less appealing? And what is spiritual discipline?
Faith is something that is personal. Faith is a matter of choice, and a manner of approaching life that less about self and more about unity. The unity can be walked out in several different denominations, yet the goal, when focused on Christ, should be the same. In the midst of unity contains the thought that something bigger than this moment, this pleasantry, this material item, this building or program, and this person in the mirror - matters in the grander scheme of things. It matters, so much so that I must choose every day to think about it more than I think about me. How I walk out my choice can vary, but being my best for God will ultimately show my true intent, as I interact with people from day to day. And I am only a part of how the plan works out, so I need not assume everyone else do as I do, to achieve God’s plan for me. So with faith, perhaps, it is more highly criticized because the results can cause pain and discomfort far beyond losing a game or race, being lower on the restaurant review list or even causing more danger and harm than a missed calculation on radar or a bit of material malfunctioning in a building.
The unpleasant results of lack of preparation are not to be minimized and we should always strive to do our very best in everything we do. The effect on the soul of a human being is even more significant, and so lack of spiritual discipline in dealing with others puts anyone professing faith in a place of higher responsible accountability. When properly combined, faith and discipline balanced will create love that is disciplined and discipline that is loving.
Jesus’ love and self-control in finishing his part in God’s plan are what saved us. What do we each need to do to carry out our part of God’s plan? Are you disciplined in your prayer life? In your faithfulness in learning from the letter God gave us? Are you finding ways to be your best as part of the body of Christ, the family we were all adopted into by the Father? Are you showing kindness, endurance, gentleness, and faith to those who know what you believe and those who do not know you? Do both groups of people see God’s light in you? Pursuing a life balanced with love and discipline will not just happen because we think about it. We have to walk toward it and keep going in our training. It is not easy. But it is well worth eternal life, to me. How about you?
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11 NIV)
All scripture references are from the King James Version (KJV) unless otherwise noted.