The word “discipline” is not one that many of us like to hear or desire to strive towards on our own. Often, there must be something which drives and motivates us from within in order to carry out this virtue in a particular area of our lives. When we view people whom we look up to in the world, we see that most often they lived a life filled with discipline. In order to be successful in the calling which God has given each of us to carry out, we must learn early on the vital importance of this character trait and realize that it is the essential key through which we are able to live our lives to the fullest potential.
The Apostle Paul was someone who regularly acknowledged the necessity of a disciplined life. Throughout his many epistles, he instructed the church and Timothy especially in this particular gift . In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul uses the example of how when an athlete is eager to win a prize, he beats his body into a routine of submissive discipline. How much more so, Paul argues, that as believers running to win a prize which is eternal and not temporary, should we strive to live a life dedicated to the Lord (1 Corinthians 9:24-25). This should make us eager to count the cost and joyfully accept a lifestyle of constant obedience to the will of God in every area as we are molded more into His image. It should not make us afraid to receive discipline when needed as it causes us to become more like Him (Hebrews 12).
The lessons which can be learned for living a life of self-discipline should fill us with anticipation and not dread because of the many blessings which come with it. Though the road is not easy and filled with hardships, the spiritual growth far outweighs the physical pain and sorrow. It has encouraged me personally to reform certain areas of my life and I have developed deeper levels of discipline in areas where I know God wants me to change. “Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us too, put aside every impediment and keep running with endurance in the race which is set before us, looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2). This is a wonderful reminder that just as Jesus was given a race to complete while He was on earth in order that He might fulfill everything which His Father had commanded Him to do, so even more so should we be persevering in the race which has been given to us with this at the forefront of our minds.
Another aspect of living a life full of discipline is to make sure that we are not forcing others to run the same race as we are. Each of us individually has been given a unique calling and direction from God. While there is certainly room for giving encouragement and building each other up along the way, we must not allow a legalistic mindset to enter into our thoughts when we see others not diligently following a similar pattern. However, when we see a brother or sister not living a life pleasing to the Lord, we should seek to guide them back gently and firmly-not with a judgmental attitude.
Finally, our motives for carrying out a disciplined walk with the Lord should be out of our love and relationship with Him and not for what we get out of it in the end. Our mind frame should be that of completing the race with joy and thanksgiving that the Lord was able to use us to our utmost capacity because we were willing to yield to Him in every area of our lives. Our prayer should be to say confidently with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7). To Him alone be the Glory! Amen.