Thursday, April 14, 2005

Christian Discipline

The Life of Discipline Is One Filled With Joy and Productivity

Paul wanted to know why he was continuously doing the things he shouldn’t while failing to do the things he knew he should. This wasn’t any ordinary Paul, but the man who wrote most of the New Testament. Like David and Isaac and Moses and all the other heroes of the Old and New Testament, he was a flawed human being, but he had a heart for God.

As I move relentlessly through this brief but complicated life as a saint who continues to sin, I imagine that I’m not so different from you, dear reader. We don’t want to continue to sin, and we do want to obey Jesus, but we fall so far short of the mark. What I have learned during my sojourn up to this day is that I am the most obedient, the most Holy, the least tempted, the least persuaded, when I am the most immersed.

Paul also compared us to athletes a couple of times. If I really wanted to be a major athlete, a star in some sport, it is pretty clear that the first thing I would need to do would be to work tirelessly and single-mindedly towards that goal. There would be no time to pursue separate efforts in music or history or art. I might have to limit my effort to some degree by demands that I couldn’t avoid like school, raising children, taking care of a spouse, or working to support my self while in training. But to every extent possible, I would spend every other available moment on that sport.

My plan would be simple. Exercise and practice. Develop the skills, knowledge, and muscle memory needed to excel. Work on mental skills like concentration, relaxation, and quick thinking. Participate in competitions to improve handling pressure and understanding the opposition.

Up to here it would seem that we could pretty much substitute success as a Christ follower for success as an athlete. Try it. Go back and reread the whole thing with that change in mind.

Update March 23, 2013

I am updating this blog post almost exactly 8 years after first writing it.  During the course of those 8 years my life was turned upside down.  I lost my business, my wife left me, and as my comedian daughter said, "Dad, you are like a country western song.  Even your old dog died."

My discipline of rising each day and reading God's word, praying to Him, worshiping Him, and Listening to Him, was lost.  I began to take some matters into my own hands that seemed expeditious at the time, but that were clearly sin.  My life continued to spiral out of control. 

Where I had generally listened to Christian radio when driving around town, I switched to secular talk shows.  Where I had read the great authors of the Christian world, i now watched TV cop shows or political talking heads.  The discipline went away, and with it the Holiness.  Like an athlete who stopped lifting, running, and listening to his coaches, my Christian walk and witness was nothing like it had been. 

I can hear my own voice in talking to Christian friends or family members:  "I know I would be happier, more joyous, more productive, and a better man if I were back to being immersed, but I am frustrated with God for my losses, and I can't get over it."

Thankfully in the past couple of months, God has reached out to me in so many ways.  I have regained the discipline, immersed myself, turned off the TV, switched the channel on the radio, and picked up great Christian writers.  And predictably my life has become more joyous.

Back to the Original Post (with some updates)

That would require quite an effort. You might even say you would have to sacrifice much of your other life to do this. But that kind of discipline would certainly make us more likely to be Christlike, don’t you think.

Here’s the other interesting new thing that has come to mind recently. The athlete certainly wouldn’t do things that were counterproductive to his plan. He wouldn’t work the wrong muscles, he wouldn’t shortcut his sleep, he wouldn’t eat wrong foods, and he wouldn’t drink alcohol.

But pretty much every Christian I know, including this writer, are watching TV programs and movies, listening to music and radio programs, reading magazines and books that are working the wrong muscles, feeding our soul and spirit the wrong food, and acting like intoxicants in our hearts.

I’m not bragging, but I spent about 5 years pretty much 100% immersed in God’s word and the things of God, while avoiding the things of this world. It was a very good 5 years. Now you’ll know I wasn’t bragging, because I stopped this disciplined life and substituted bad food and drink for the body and blood of Jesus. And it showed.

I haven’t given up these habits cold turkey this time, but I am working towards it. Pray for me.

See my update.  It isn't pretty.  3/7/2010.   As noted above, it took another three years to work things out with God and return to a life centered on Him.  Having waffled so badly over this total of almost 15 years between immersion and good discipline to no discipline and only a tangential hold on Christian teaching, I can't begin to explain the difference in my quality of life.  But maybe at some point I will try.  

What I do know is this.  God was able to use me when I was available and listening.  Now I believe God is ready to use me again.  I would recommend that you bookmark this blog, subscribe to it, or add it to your RSS feed.  Check out the content added after March 23, 2013.  


Mark said...

Nice article. I am a Christian of 28 years who struggles with self discipline. Not that I'm some wreck of a Christian it's just that my self discipline doesn't match my desires.

I feel a fresh awareness that with increased self discipline will come not only the desires of my heart but an ability to do the most important thing which is to submit my will to God.

Whenever "I want" is not under God's control I get lost.

I would encourage you to email me at I am a family man married for 27 years with three kids living in South Bend Indiana and would like to share my journey with Christ with other serious followers.

P.S. Isn't it nice to know God is using your blog to encourage other believers!!

Mark McClean

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