Discipline is a foul word in some quarters. In others, it suggests punishment. But others see discipline as a necessary component of a maturing, healthy life and especially of a faithful life before God. The apparent lack of discipline is the reason for so much of society’s ills. R. Kent Hughes, writing in the popular Disciplines of a Godly Man , says:
“I Learned that personal discipline is the indispensable key for accomplishing anything in this life. I have since come to understand even more that it is, in fact, the mother and handmaiden of what we call genius.”
“We will never get anywhere in life without discipline be it in the arts, business, athletics, or academics. This is doubly so in spiritual matters. In other areas we may be able to claim some innate advantage. An athlete may be born with a strong body, a musician with perfect pitch, or an artist with an eye for perspective. But none of us can claim an innate spiritual advantage.”
When we look across the cultural landscape we see trouble. Moral values have vanished, integrity is lost and even the so-called work ethic that under-girded our nation is weakened and near breaking. In every case there is a lack of discipline on the part of individuals that is spreading to entire communities.
Miley Cyrus is the current poster child for vulgarity and amoral conduct. She follows a long line including Lady Gaga and Madonna before her. Yesterday, as the Cyrus antics were being covered by the media, I witnessed a teen aged girl at a local high school imitating the embarrassing dance moves of Cyrus.
A casino in Las Vegas is trying to evict a nightclub from their property because their stage show is raunchy. Specifically, they charge that performers are imitating bestiality in the shows. Now here is the kicker. A spokesman for the niughtclub said:
“We believe we are on the leading edge of the next evolution of nightlife in Las Vegas and that The Act fills a niche for patrons looking for an alternative to the typical Las Vegas big-box club scene.”
“The next evolution?” Sadly, he is probably right. As discipline wanes, our world moves from bad to worse. It should be no surprise because Scripture has Paul telling Timothy that “evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).
All discipline is personal.Members of a group must each be disciplined else the group as a whole will falter. Discipline is developed over years of practice and does not come easily to some. It prove better to seek discipline in one area before moving on to the others. One writer says it this way: “It’s a mistake to try to push yourself too hard when trying to build self-discipline. If you try to transform your entire life overnight by setting dozens of new goals for yourself and expecting yourself to follow through consistently starting the very next day, you’re almost certain to fail. ” We would suggest the following order.
1. A Discipline of Prayer
Prayer is the foundation of Christian growth and without it, any apparent growth will soon slip away. Prayer was a frequent discipline for Jesus and should be for his followers too.
We would suggest setting a specific time for prayer. Allow at least 15 minutes in the beginning (more later) and find a place without distractions where you can pour your heart out to God. Late at night as you lay in bed is probably not a good time, neither is driving down the road. Find a time where nothing competes for your attention.
It is perfectly fine to write down prayer needs and requests. In fact a prayer journal is a great idea and will help you review the way God has dealt with you in the past.
2. A Discipline of Study
Very closely related to prayer is the study of God’s word. Inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16) is the transmission of truth from God to man, through man and for man. By inspiration we come to know for certain precisely what our needs are. But study is essential. A student could never become an engineer or medical doctor without study. The Christian cannot never reach his full potential apart from study.
Like prayer, study should be deliberate and at a set time of the day. Prepare for your study by arranging an uncluttered working space and by having a notebook and pen handy. Your goal is not to read a certain number of verses but to understand the verses that you do read. Set aside 30 minutes for study and fill those minutes by striving to fully and completely understand each verse.
3. A Discipline of Conduct
Once a foundation of prayer and study are set you are ready for the transformation that God will work in your life (Romans 12:2). At some point every Christian must determine whether he will walk worthy of his calling (Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:2), or not. The changing power of God’s word will lead into a new way of life. It will change the way you live.
It seems that in the early days a new Christian spends much time eliminating unrighteous habits. But as time progresses we spend more time adding new ways of life consonant with a walk with God. Changes in our behavior, adding or eliminating, requires discipline. It makes no sense to empty our life of bad habits without replacing those habits with goodness. In fact, such one sided actions may be dangerous (Matthew 12:43-45).
So right now, pick a habit to attack. Bad language? Immoral conduct? Gossip? Whatever it is bring your body into subjection. You are the boss of your own life. Set your house in order!
There is no time like the present to begin to serve God with all your heart. Bring discipline to your life.